Strategic Enrollment Management Quarterly

Advancing research in enrollment and student success

Editor's Note

Clatyon Smith, Ed.D.


As college and universities look to confront a dynamic and volatile higher education landscape created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the changing perceptions of the return-on-investment of higher education, educational leaders are using strategic enrollment management (SEM) as a planning framework for managing college and university enrollments to achieve student and institutional success. This issue of SEM Quarterly identifies and discusses the impact of five initiatives to address these continuing enrollment challenges.

Policy review and project management that takes into account people from different backgrounds, experiences, and identities can increase our understanding of disparate impacts. Kristin Benson, Autumn Landis, and Rebecca Mathern describe how the Office of the Registrar at Oregon State University implemented a structured process to review policy and manage projects through the use of an equity lens.

While it is well known that building a foundational approach for SEM is necessary to succeed in today’s dynamic higher education environment, confusion persists regarding how institutional leaders can bring their campuses together to optimize enrollment, meet enrollment and revenue goals, and advance the institutional mission. Boyd Bradshaw suggests that institutions develop a clear set of objectives for the enrollment management team and create a common understanding of seven foundation elements to enhance enrollment planning and achieve enrollment success.

With hundreds of chief enrollment management officer (CEMO) positions becoming available due to high turnover within the next few years, institutions will need to make the CEMO role more attractive to the next generation of enrollment leaders who will be responsible for solving complex problems in the changing, highly competitive landscape of higher education. Lisa Emery and Rema Reynolds Vassar, in their causal comparative quantitative study, seek to understand the challenges and highlights of the role and provide recommendations for reshaping it. Findings suggest that career support, recognition for competence, and favorable working conditions were significantly correlated with higher morale and intention to stay in their current position.

Institutional culture can support new students in developing clear expectations for their college experience through written discourse sent to them prior to beginning their studies. Candice Wilson-Stykes explores how colleges and universities communicate their culture to students through emails. Analysis of institutional emails to incoming students uncovered assumed beliefs about the institution’s culture and identified ways institutions can directly impact students’ success. Three themes were identified: overemphasis, commitment, and community. Implications include the importance of evaluating the balance between student and institution, and stressing the importance of both institutional success and student success.

The role of academic departments in managing enrollment management, while an important and key part of how institutions sustain enrollment growth, is not well-studied in the enrollment management literature. Following much discussion about declining enrollments in upper-division courses and major, Steven Roper chronicles seven far-reaching measures that, if implemented actively and positively, would help political science departments to impact enrollments and major count.

By finding ways to build a foundational approach for strategic enrollment management, support new transformational CEMO leaders, connect new students with institutional culture, and establish a role for academic departments in sustaining enrollment growth, enrollment leaders will be more prepared to confront and overcome the challenges that await us.

Happy reading.

Clayton Smith