Restructuring Institutional Aid Programs to Meet SEM Goals

May 1, 2023
  • Enrollment Management
  • SEMQ
  • SemQ
Individual working on paperwork and a calculator.

Institutions are continually trying to predict and influence student choice. At the University of Oregon, the enrollment management department was charged with connecting SEM principles to student recruitment. To meet new enrollment and retention goals, the university restructured its financial aid programs. 

The university previously used institutional financial aid dollars to impact students’ decisions around enrollment, but it was not data-driven, and decisions were made based on perceptions and feelings around how effective the policy was in accomplishing the goal of shaping a student’s enrollment decision, wrote Jim Brooks and Jen Parker in the April SEM Quarterly

The university’s focus included: improving the quality of the incoming class as measured by GPA and test scores; increasing the diversity of the freshman class in terms of race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status; increasing the size of the freshman class; and maintaining affordability, especially for in-state students. 

In order to accomplish these goals, the university realized that it would have to be more strategic in the use of institutional dollars, and would have to rethink its commitment to funding for students, wrote Brooks and Parker. This required more collaboration between the enrollment management units and the academic units. It also meant that university development officers would also need to be a part of the conversation in order to ensure that philanthropic gifts to the university helped support the four areas of focus that had been identified.

The Division of Student Services and Enrollment Management (SSEM) conducted qualitative research that examined the potential effect of financial aid on a student’s decision to enroll. As a result, the university implemented fundraising strategies and increased financial aid and scholarships. The efforts were successful; the campus saw growth in the size of its freshman class, higher GPA scores among incoming students, an increase in diversity, and the opportunity to grow a program for lower-income Oregon students. 

This work is not done alone,” wrote Brooks and Parker, pointing out that there were key partnerships between the financial aid office and several institutional departments as well as schools and colleges. Through a collaborative strategic planning and implementation process, the university continues to meet shared goals and align resources where possible to serve students by removing financial barriers to a postsecondary education.

To share your university’s SEM story, contact SEMQ’s managing editor

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