Strategic enrollment management planning within student affairs

By Jody Gordon, Senior Consultant, AACRAO SEM Consulting & Vice President, Students and Enrolment Management at the University of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford, B.C. Canada

Post-secondary institutions who are highly engaged in Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM) planning understand the value of participation by both student affairs and academic affairs staff and faculty. If we are committed to supporting the success of the whole student then the entire campus must be involved in SEM planning and in the implementation and execution of the strategic enrollment goals within the plan.

At my University, the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV), we adopted a definition of SEM that recognized the importance of institution wide participation: "Strategic enrollment management (SEM) is a concept and process that [through strategic planning of enrollments] enables the fulfillment of institutional mission and students’ educational goals." (Bontrager, 2004)

For our purposes this included viewing SEM within a larger planning process. "[Strategic] Enrollment management is a comprehensive and coordinated process that enables a college to identify enrollment goals that are allied with its mission, its strategic plan, its environment, and its resources, and to reach those goals through the effective integration of administrative processes, student services, curriculum planning, and market analysis." (Kerlin, 2008)

In addition to being grounded in our strategic and academic plans, our SEM Plan was intended to be intentional, practical, data- and goal-driven, action-oriented and student success focused (Gordon and Sigler, 2012/2013).

9 SEM Goals

While SEM is not a quick fix or an overnight process, it is about establishing clear enrollment goals for the number and types of students needed to fulfill the institutional mission and it is about promoting students’ academic success by improving access, transition, persistence, and graduation (Gordon and Sigler, 2012/2013).

At UFV this resulted in 9 strategic enrollment goals (see the UFV SEM plan). These goals focused the tactical work that needed to be done within the Student Affairs division. The SEM Plan acted as a focal point for determining where our division needed to exert its energies and spend it’s limited resources.

During our budgeting period, the SEM Plan has become the measuring stick by which requests for any new resources are determined. Requesters for funding for new initiatives have to demonstrate how we would further achieve our strategic enrollment goals if the programs/services were supported. This approach has had a profound impact on planning in Student Affairs. But we did not arrive there overnight. Our journey began with having to overcome some organization inertia.

Look forward to the January 2017 issue of SEM Quarterly for more on this topic.

For more SEM insights, check out the just-released issue of SEMQ and join us at AACRAO SEM 2016 in San Antonio.


Bontrager, Bob (2004). “Enrollment Management: An Introduction to Concepts and Structures”, College and University Journal, Vol. 79, No. 3, Winter 2004, p. 12.

Gordon, Jody and Sigler, Wayne (2012/2013), “SEM Core Concepts”, Presentation at the AACRAO Strategic Enrollment Management conference November 4, 2012 and at the AACRAO Strategic Enrollment Management conference November 10, 2013.

Kerlin, Christine (2008), “Community College Roadmap for the Enrollment Management Journey,” College and University Journal, Vol. 83, No. 4, p. 11.