So you want to become a chief enrollment officer?

November 2, 2017
  • AACRAO Connect
  • AACRAO Consulting
Male wearing a suit walking up a glass staircase in a modern white-walled building.

By Liz Gross, Campus Sonar

As a profession, enrollment management is approximately 30-35 years old. As the domain of an enrollment manager grows in size and complexity, a new role on campus has emerged: the Chief Enrollment Management Officer (CEMO). Tuesday’s session at the AACRAO SEM conference focused on the current state of the CEMO position, what skills are required and what education is available, and how AACRAO is supporting the development of aspiring CEMOs.

Profile Of Current CEMOs

Wendy Kilgore (AACRAO) began with an overview of data from the AACRAO 2017 U.S. Chief Enrollment Management Officer Career Profile. Some highlights included:

  • 45% of institutions surveyed indicated they have a CEMO
  • 41% of CEMOs have 25 or more years of higher education experience.
  • Titles of the CEMO position vary greatly.
  • The general profile of a CEMO is someone who is 45 years old, has a master’s degree, and is white/non-Hispanic. The CEMO is equally likely to be male or female.
  • 39% say they intend to do something different in the next four years. This could result in almost 750 CEMO vacancies by 2021.

Domains of Knowledge Required for CEMOs

Jerry Lucido (University of Southern California) took the podium next to discuss the domains of knowledge that people in the enrollment management field need.  He distilled the essence of the CEMO role to the managing the intersection of prestige, revenue, access and diversity, and student progress within an institution.  Many people feel that a specialized enrollment management master’s program is needed to address the following needs.

  • Understand strategic planning and have a strong voice in the process.
  • Understand how to conduct research and use the results.
  • Understand marketing and admissions models.
  • Understand price and perceived value.
  • Learn how to work with senior campus administrators and faculty.
  • Gain a stronger background in retention—specifically, how a campus can organize to promote persistence and retention and make sure it happens.

There are a handful of programs that address the needs for specialized knowledge, including Drexel, Miami, Vanderbilt, proprietary programs, and AACRAO SEM education and training. Lucido is involved with the development of an enrollment management master’s degree at the University of Southern California that was recently submitted for curriculum review.

AACRAO Training for Aspiring CEMOs

Tom Green (AACRAO Consulting) closed the presentation with an overview of what AACRAO is doing to help people acquire skills. He reviewed the AACRAO Professional Core Competencies, with a focus on the five enrollment management proficiencies:

  • SEM Assessment. The ability to look at your organization and understand the state it’s in at that moment. How ready is the org for SEM? What is already being done?
  • Enrollment Mix. Every institution has enrollment growth goals, but a CEMO needs to determine from what mix of potential students (e.g., adults, transfer, veteran, STEM, Pell-eligible, etc.) are likely to contribute to that growth and build appropriate recruitment strategies.
  • SEM Leadership. It’s important not only to manage the EM unit, but also to lead all SEM efforts on your campus. This could include managing up to lead the president or chancellor.
  • Staffing Leadership. The ability to hire, manage, and develop human resources.
  • Enrollment Technology. Beyond mastering your student information system (which is vital to gain the full return on that sizeable investment), this emerging skillset is the ability to keep up with all the new technologies that arise (e.g., CRM, social media, automation) and integrate them into SEM as appropriate.

Tom also highlighted many of the AACRAO publications specific to SEM, noting that AACRAO has produced more SEM literature than anyone else in the world.



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