Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI)
Location: Worchester, MA
Founded in 1865 with a focus on science and engineering, WPI offers more than 50 undergraduate degree programs across 14 academic departments. When WPI formed its Enrollment Management Division in 2008, the Division’s newly instated Vice President,
Kristin Tichenor, knew this was the ideal opportunity to assess the Registrar’s Office and identify opportunities for improvement that could bolster enrollment efforts. AACRAO Consulting was called in to assist with this endeavor.
Prior to creating the Enrollment Management Division, WPI’s Registrar’s Office had largely been operating as a highly independent department, and without access to or knowledge of best practices. As a result, the Office had experienced significant challenges in promptly and efficiently serving students as well as faculty. Facing slow response times and lack of clarity, students and faculty alike had expressed frustration in their interactions with the Office.
As the new vice president overseeing the Registrar’s Office, Ms. Tichenor suspected much of the challenges stemmed from tunnel vision; the staff simply did not have access to or awareness of how other universities’ Registrar’s Offices operated in concert with admissions and enrollment. Ms. Tichenor knew there was ample room for improvement, but wanted an outside, neutral expert with fresh eyes to help in identifying and capitalizing on those opportunities.
AACRAO Consulting initiated the engagement with a 360-degree review of the Registrar’s Office staffing structure, practices and policies. AACRAO Consultants meet with line staff, leadership, faculty, and Governance Committee Chairs to assess the Office’s effectiveness in meeting its responsibilities while responding to the needs of students and faculty.
Through their assessment, AACRAO Consulting uncovered and addressed multiple barriers to efficient and effective operations. Their review found that the Registrar’s Office staff was not adequately empowered or equipped to make informed decisions. Compounding that challenge, staff were more focused on strictly enforcing rules as opposed to finding solutions that generated results for students and faculty.
AACRAO Consulting provided actionable recommendations on professionalizing the Office and empowering its staff to become not just by-the-book processors but creative and responsive problem-solvers.
Following the initial engagement, WPI invited AACRAO Consulting to return for a follow-up assessment to evaluate the successful implementation of initial recommendations and identify additional actions the university could take to achieve its longer-term goals.
AACRAO Consulting’s findings and report provided the data-backed evidence WPI leadership needed to make a concerted investment in supporting the Registrar’s Office. The Office staff were equipped with the tools and knowledge they needed to make decisions, work more productively, and make better use of resources to process more daily transactions with greater speed and accuracy. Faculty and students report a much more positive experience with the Office today, which in turn reflects well on the entire institution.
Greater efficiencies and improved service from the Registrar’s Office also made a significant contribution to WPI’s boost in enrollment and yield. Following the first and second AACRAO Consulting engagements, WPI saw an increase in enrollment from 3,522 students in the fall 2009 to 4,435 students in fall 2017.