Enrollment Management Update — the “Beta” Mindset

By Kimberley B. Williams, Associate Provost, Enrollment Management

As I have shared with colleagues since my arrival at UMW in late May, successful universities adapt in the face of confounding challenges (ex. diminished resources; exploding competition; growing human diversity; increased accountability; etc.). We are truly in the midst of an “adaptive challenge” in enrollment management at UMW. To productively engage the adaptive challenges that exist, we will be moving forward with a “beta” mindset.

A “beta” mindset allows for the productive disruption of status quo habits. The perpetual “beta” mindset was born in web-based product development, but it’s instructive for anyone in business (and in this case enrollment management).

As Olivier Blanchard outlines:

“What does being in Beta mean? It means being in perpetual test mode. It means constantly asking “how could I do this better,” even when this worked just fine. How can I listen better? How could I improve customer service? How can I make my billing process smoother? How could we improve the UI/UX of our websites? How can I engage my user community even better? How could this brochure have been better?”

This upcoming recruitment cycle, we will be launching several “beta” initiatives and will be dramatically improving those launched last year. Information regarding these initiatives will be shared over the course of the fall semester. For starters, here is a little bit about three “test modes” we will be exploring this year.

Improving Enrollment Predictions

One new initiative that will be used this recruitment cycle is the incorporation of a predictive model to help “predict” applicant’s likelihood to enroll. Each applicant will be ranked using these variables found to be predictive of UMW enrolled students; distance from campus, age of application, legacy status, major, SAT/ ACTS score, geography. Last year, we didn’t use a predictive model and thus weren’t able to determine the relative strength of the applicant pool.

This qualifying tool will allow us to:

  • Focus scarce time and resources on those students with the greatest propensity to enroll
  • Facilitate better relationship-building with prospective students
  • Enable staff to follow-up with students that are most interested
  • Provide cost-savings by not communicating equally with every student
  • Personalize the enrollment process
  • Provide a tool for enrollment forecasting

The model we’re using is called ForecastPlus™ and is a Noel-Levitz product. As you may know, Noel-Levitz is a major national consulting firm that offers a variety of assessments and professional development services designed to help you strengthen enrollment planning. Many universities use their services. This summer Noel Levitz collected our data and supplemented it with the most up-to-date, socio-economic variables that will increase prediction. Next steps included building the model which converted various traits into statistical values. We’re excited to launch this “beta” initiative this fall.

Involving Current Students and Faculty in Recruiting

A second initiative we are launching this fall is a UMW Student-to-Student call team. The plan entails hiring 1-2 student supervisors and 6-9 student callers to target several specific audiences; international, transfer, freshmen, etc. Students and supervisors will be trained on the Hobson’s Tele-Center module in the next few weeks. The goal is to complete 5,000 calls this fall. Last year approx. 3,500 calls were completed via an outside firm. Fall calling will begin the week of September 15th and end December 5th. Faculty participation is welcomed. Please contact me directly if you’re interested.

Continued faculty partnership will be essential to our success. I plan to work with faculty colleagues on a myriad of issues including; campus events, email and print communication pieces that differentiate our academic programs and activities from our competitors, looking at better ways to tell the success stories of our graduates, and more. I have already reached out to faculty with experience with statistical modeling and advanced data usage for input on current plans and have met with faculty interested in serving on a faculty advisory board. In addition, this fall we hope to involve emeriti faculty in application reading. Invitations have been extended to several emeriti faculty. Although I haven’t received any “yes” responses, I’m optimistic that this “beta” program will take hold. In addition, we are working with several faculty members on fall high school visit days. Please contact me directly if you’re interested in meeting to discuss any enrollment question, concern, and/or beta idea!

Target High Schools

A final initiative pertains to high school targets. Over the summer a new tracking report was created. The new report identifies 2014 actual results, the 2015 target, and the desired percent increase with notations regarding under-performing schools. Sub-targets have been set for November 1, December 1, January 1 and February 1. We are working with University Relations to target market in areas where we have under-performing schools. Similar targets have been set for community colleges.

As an example, here is a snapshot of the target chart for high schools.

Reference: Always in Beta. Retrieved from: http://tomfishburne.com/2010/08/always-in-beta.html

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