Strategic Enrollment Management Quarterly

Advancing research in enrollment and student success

Editor's Note

Tom Green, Ph.D.


When Don Hossler observed in 1990 (Josey Bass) that there were some movements going on in higher education that were far enough along to be organized into four approaches (committee, coordinator, matrix, and division — I still have page 46 dogeared in my copy of “The Strategic Management of College Enrollments”), it was a sign that the innovations of a handful of practitioners in the 1970s had grown into something much more. Many others, including David Kalsbeek and Michael Dolence, would begin to explain to us in the 1990s what it was that we were trying to do, strategically influence the enrollments of our institutions, and their brilliance as researchers and writers helped us find our way. When Stan Henderson wrote in 2001 that we were “On the Brink of a Profession” (SEM Revolution, AACRAO 2001), it was clear that the movement was pushing into the consciousness of higher education. Publications, especially at AACRAO, bloomed in the following decade, and we benefitted from early leaders in the field as they documented the ways in which SEM was practiced.

In 2013, SEM Quarterly was launched by another visionary, Bob Bontrager. He saw the need to add to the growing body of research but noted that as a nascent profession, rigorous research methods and peer review could accelerate the acceptance of and resources for strategic enrollment management. Bob’s passing in October 2014 was tragic and personally difficult, as we had been such close colleagues and friends for decades. The sapling that Bob planted was now in my care and with the help of many others, I have watched it grow and mature over nine years. On this the first issue of our tenth year, it is fitting to celebrate the giants upon whose shoulders I have stood.

It is now time for a new caretaker for the journal. My thanks go out to AACRAO, especially Mike Reilly and Melanie Gottlieb, for their support and guidance. The many editorial board members have earned my thanks and deserve yours for their dedication and work to ensure that the articles you read meet their high standards for strong and relevant research. Our authors have given us their talents and skills and without them, we would not have a journal to share with you. Thanks to each and every one of you.

My job has been made much easier from the start because of the brilliance and incredible skills of Managing Editor Heather Zimar. Do not take for granted those who make hard work look easy; Heather barely breaks a sweat managing the cat herd of editors-in-chief, authors, board members, deadlines, and technology at SEMQ and C&U. Thanks for making me look good, Heather.

In closing, I am reminded of a quote from the great philosopher Winnie the Pooh (aka A. A. Milne), “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

Wishing you great success in all your enrollment endeavors,


Tom Green, Ph.D. (former Editor-in-Chief)


Clayton Smith, Ed.D.


As we begin to explore our post-pandemic world, we find ourselves confronted with new and continuing enrollment challenges and opportunities. Many of the issues that confronted us before the pandemic have accelerated or still demand our attention today while new issues have created a need for human, infrastructure, and systems innovation. This issue of SEM Quarterly is filled with great resources to help us strategically consider how we will help our students and our institutions rebound, thrive, and position themselves for success in this new world.

An increasing number of students begin their studies in community colleges with the hope of continuing at four-year institutions to earn a bachelor’s degree; yet less than one-fifth of these students achieve this goal. Further, many of the nation’s most disadvantaged students begin their higher education journey at institutions that will ultimately not issue their baccalaureate degree. Dr. Chuck Knepfle and Rock McCaskill explored best practices throughout the United States for minimizing the barriers for students who transition from two-year to four-year institutions. They encourage enrollment management professionals to implement the support networks, policies, financial aid programs, mentoring, articulation, marketing, and personal interactions necessary to ensure transfer student success.

Many states have responded to the Obama administration’s goal to increase the percentage of Americans over the age of 25 with at least an associate’s degree. One state, Tennessee, adopted landmark legislation for achieving this goal, and, in particular, targeted underserved populations, including Latino American and African-American populations. Drs. Lorianne Mitchell, Edith Seier, and Michael Small explored responses on the High School Senior Opinion Survey to identify trends between Latino American and African-American students. Using Astin’s Input-Environment-Outcome model to guide their research, they found that student characteristics act as significant input factors, with having the perception of being college-bound being the most significant factor.

Declining enrollment is a shared reality at many colleges and universities due to plummeting high school graduation rates. Digging deeper, we can see double-digit declines among the traditional, white college-attending population that is partially offset by increases in underrepresented populations. Taken together, this suggests a growing need for institutions to develop strategic enrollment management plans focusing on student retention. Dr. Perry Rettig describes how one institution, Piedmont University, responded to this challenge by creating the Retention Vortex as an internal communication tool to pull together disparate units across campus. Emphasizing the role of careful and deliberative planning, he argues that such efforts retain and graduate more students.

Communicating with students during the COVID-19 global pandemic was an essential enrollment management strategy to support both student recruitment and retention at higher educational institutions. Dr. Zach Taylor, Sana Meghani, and Lizeth Nguyen conducted a qualitative study that analyzed student feedback from a text-messaging program serving Minority-Serving Institutions in the U.S. immediately after the beginning of the pandemic. Findings suggest institutions could have communicated curricular models and campus information in a more timely, clear manner to assuage student anxiety and support student persistence and graduation.

A Chinese proverb tells us that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago and the second-best time is now.

Happy reading.


Clayton Smith