College enrollment is getting more complex. Can officials keep up?

March 7, 2018

Experts say that rising concerns about equity require better leadership

By Ross Brenneman

With every spring comes the application deadline for students looking to go to college. It’s near the end of a long process of visits, interviews and gathering recommendations.

While the admissions process has become a familiar entity for thousands of high schoolers (and parents), fewer are aware of the complex architecture of enrollment management, of which admissions is just a part, along with recruitment, financial aid, data management and even college completion.

In addition to calls for greater racial diversity, schools are facing increased calls to improve equity for first-generation college students, immigrants and other kinds of historically marginalized students, which can bring big equity challenges to the enrollment-management system.

“We cannot expect to see progress in college access and success goals if enrollment leaders are not educated to break down barriers, promote entry, facilitate progress and monitor the effectiveness of their efforts,” said Jerry Lucido, associate dean for strategic enrollment services at USC Rossier.

Lucido heads the USC Rossier Center for Enrollment Research, Policy and Practice (CERPP), which studies changes to the enrollment-management field and how practitioners can anticipate issues and new dynamics.

A survey of enrollment officers conducted by CERPP in 2016 showed that 70 percent would recommend that enrollment managers have a graduate degree, and yet, Lucido said, many officers “come to their roles serendipitously and with little preparation.”

Improved learning

In response to interest in better preparation, Lucido and other faculty and experts have banded together to establish a new master’s degree in enrollment management, launching at USC Rossier this fall.

“Admission and enrollment work requires knowledge, expert practice and research to navigate the trade-offs and opportunities for students and their families, institutions and policymakers alike,” Lucido said. “A critical body of knowledge has emerged and now, more than ever, leaders and practitioners in the field require formal education and skills to be effective institutional leaders.”

The program would prepare students to help increase college diversity, access and success, as well as manage admission, enrollment and strategic enrollment planning processes.

“Enrollment management has a powerful role to play in terms of equity since admission is a gatekeeper into higher education,” said Kristan Venegas, assistant dean for strategic initiatives and evaluation at USC Rossier, and one of the new program’s faculty members. “Enrollment managers have the opportunity and responsibility to make decisions that impact the equity goals of their institutions.”

Program leaders expect that the degree will help future practitioners keep up with growing trends, such as the practice of holistic admissions, in which admission officers seek to gather complex understandings of applicants, rather than limit selectivity to quantifiable information alone.

USC Rossier’s new program will be offered online and includes two on-campus immersion experiences. Program faculty will be drawn from USC Rossier but also includes current and former admission and enrollment professionals from across the country:

  • DeAngela Burns-Wallace, vice provost for undergraduate studies at the University of Kansas
  • Art Coleman, co-founder and managing partner of EducationCounsel LLC
  • Paul Dieken, senior associate director for financial aid at USC
  • Katharine Harrington, USC vice president for admissions and planning
  • Don Hossler, senior scholar at CERPP, who has authored or co-authored more than 23 books and reports on the subject
  • Robert Massa, senior vice president for enrollment and institution planning at Drew University
  • Jerry Lucido, director of the USC Rossier Center for Enrollment Research, Policy and Practice
  • Kristan Venegas, assistant dean of strategic initiatives at USC Rossier School of Education

Applications for the program are open until June 15, 2018, with a priority deadline of June 1, 2018.

Related Stories: