Tom Green, Ph.D.
Welcome to our fourth issue of our sixth year. It is hard to imagine that we will soon enter the seventh year of publication and it is gratifying to see how the journal has evolved over these past several years. The number and quality of submissions has increased, and the diversity of topics within SEM has increased as well, tracking the broadening of SEM beyond undergraduate enrollment issues to graduate, transfer, and international. It has also grown well beyond the United States to include SEM in several other countries.
This issue opens with a “View from the Top” and continues our series on leadership voices of women in SEM. Dr. Karen Miller is someone I met when she headed up enrollment management at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland. We collaborated on a very popular workshop at the SEM Conference in 2016, “Writing a SEM Plan – Something for Everyone.” Since then, Karen joined our SEM Advisory Group and also became Executive Vice President and Provost at Tri-C, as the college is known. She is yet another example of a strong SEM leader who has moved into an administrative leadership role traditionally occupied only by those who came from academic positions. It is a trend we have witnessed at several two- and four-year institutions in the United States and it speaks well not only to Dr. Miller’s exceptional talents but to the significant roles that enrollment and student success play in the health of any institution.
Because of the number of strong articles now available to us and our new publishing format, we are able to bring additional articles (rather than our past format, which almost always limited us to four total articles) to you in this issue. Dr. Chuck Knepfle brings us a case study from his university, Clemson, on the process of building an enrollment plan from the ground up. In this article, we learn how engaging key stakeholders and collecting important data and information create a stronger plan than by targeting growth alone. Of particular interest to readers may be the types of data Dr. Knepfle presents in the article. While certainly not the only data collected in Clemson’s SEM planning process, there are some “usual” and quite nuanced tables that reveal the level to which strong data analysis needs to be conducted to create the specific enrollment goals that will “move the needle” at any institution.
One of the areas into which SEM has expanded is online education. Dr. Melissa Cruz of Mercer University offers a wonderful article on the issues of online recruitment and retention among online graduate programs. In reading her article, two aspects stood out. The first was her attention to the preferences of today’s adult learners. The balance between in-person and online interaction in both the recruitment and instructional processes is highly nuanced and applying one approach to these students inevitably misses the mark for others. The second striking point was the issue of building community among online students. We know that this has a strong impact on all students (Tinto’s theory of college departure and the role of social integration is the first that pops into my mind), but it is especially powerful among adult learners. Dr. Cruz offers some innovative and perhaps counter-intuitive examples of ways that community among students who otherwise would not physically see each other can be built.
This issue of SEMQ offers two strong research articles. In what might be one of the more interesting ways in which SEM has spread across the globe, researchers Shaw and Rodeiro of the United Kingdom present an article on United States admissions. The topic is predictive validity of admissions data, and it is well-timed today with many institutions concerned about how their admissions practices help them to find and admit the most capable students. Is there more data that can help inform our admissions decisions? The authors suggest that there are more and better data to expand our view of college readiness in this well-researched article.
The fifth article in this issue is by a trio of researchers headed by AACRAO’s Director of Research, Dr. Wendy Kilgore, who collaborated with Dr. Ken Sharp and aspiring researcher and graduate student Emma Crabtree from Wichita State University. Their topic, excess credits earned while obtaining a degree, is a very “hot topic” in higher education today. Policy makers decry it, funders offer grants to find solutions to reduce it, and state systems work to minimize it. First, the causes must be clearly understood, and this article greatly expands our understanding of some of the reasons why students wind up taking so many more credits than needed before earning a degree. The authors make a strong contribution to the issue and validate the need for students to have early and high-quality advising and degree planning tools. In their conclusion, the authors note a number of additional studies that could aid in our understanding of this uniquely American issue, one that demands further exploration and solutions to keep students from delaying their degree attainment and from paying far too much for degrees than needed.