Services: Attract More of the Right Students

Helping you starts with a deep assessment of current practices, comparing them against best practice, then sharing recommendations for both immediate and long-term improvement in systems, strategies, tactics, investments, campus mobilization, and team deployment.  Our team uses the 5 P lens to provide a comprehensive evaluation, asking many of the questions (link to blog post) outlined in this blog post.

Best practice, by the way, does not consist of a laminated sheet.  Principles which comprise best practice must always be translated in the unique nature of your campus, competitor set, program mix, enrollment, and setting.  Picture a rural Bible college with less than 200 students and a comprehensive Christian liberal arts university in the suburbs with 1,500 students.  While many of the same principles apply in each setting, differences in scope, program mix, size, team depth, and setting must be considered when framing recommendations.

In addition to enrollment assessments, we also help colleges and universities with:

  • Writing recruitment and strategic enrollment plans – this is usually done as a follow-up to an assessment, capturing the recommendations and what we’ve learned into a written plan with action steps, key metrics and goals, and supporting analysis of your data.
  • Staff training engagements – from our research with Christian college admission counselors and those who supervise them, training and ongoing professional development is an ongoing priority. From summer training workshops to longer engagements, we can help ensure your team knows what to do, knows when to engage others, knows how to make the case for why your institution is worth choosing, and knows how to make the most of the data you have.
  • Enrollment coaching/consulting retainers – enrollment leadership is a complex, demanding, and never-ending task. From decades of conversations with enrollment leaders, we know they crave access to ongoing expertise, perspective, and a safe place to examine ideas, talk about team and campus challenges and opportunities, and extract key “so what/now what” insights from their data.  Enrollment coaching can be as simple as a monthly scheduled phone call or as involved as monthly, in-person days.  We can customize a coaching engagement to meet your needs.
  • Making strategic sense of your data – what data should you collect? What does a regular rotation of enrollment and market research look like and what do you do with the results?  How do your funnel metrics compare to other relevant institutions?  Our team can help you answer these questions and more, providing training, analysis, and data-informed recommendations for strategy development and refinement.

Strategic Planning

Every college needs a strategic plan.  Accreditors, donors, and board members require not only the presence of a strategic plan, but even more want to measure the difference it is making in the life and progress of your campus.  Developing the plan is an important first step, but even more critical is implementing your plan in active, measurable ways.  In order to implement, you need both buy-in and ownership from your faculty, staff, and board.

Here are seven key questions to consider as you evaluate your current plan and think about your next one:

  • How thoroughly has your plan been implemented?
  • What kinds of changes did you make in the plan’s goals or initiatives in the last year to reflect current reality?
  • How engaged was your faculty/staff/board community in developing the plan?  In its implementation?
  • If you polled your faculty and staff, how many of them would remember each of your plan’s strategic themes?
  • What metrics did you choose to measure your progress initially?  How have these metrics moved in a positive direction during the life of the plan?  When you achieve these metrics, how will the student experience, your reputation, and your resources be measurably impacted?
  • How long did it take you to develop your current plan?
  • What would you do differently this time as you reflect on your current plan’s development and implementation?

Building a strong and impactful strategic plan involves several key steps:

  • Engagement – faculty, staff, and board must be engaged in building and implementing the plan
  • Efficiency – engagement must strike the right balance between getting input and moving through creation to implementation with urgency
  • Stages – the planning experts at Credo who informed much of my thinking on this subject talk about three distinct planning stages:
    • Strategic thinking – this is what I like to call “the splatter phase” where you gather ideas great and small, practice the good rules of brainstorming, and engage faculty, staff, and board in the splattering.
    • Strategic planning – tons of ideas, many of them strategic, now need winnowing down to the themes, initiatives, metrics, and goals you will follow.  You can’t do everything, and this stage is critical to make sure your plan is focused on the most impactful ideas.
    • Strategic action – moving from planning to implementation is where the real institutional impact is seen and felt.  Solid implementation sets your plan apart and requires both courageous leadership and discipline.
  • Leveling – the strategic plan is at the highest level of planning.  All other plans – enrollment, finance, campus/facilities, marketing, program, and operations – must both reflect the priorities of the strategic plan and “roll up to it.”
  • Priorities – strategic plans which turn into a version of the old Sears Christmas Wish catalog do not live up to the name “strategic.”  Good strategic planning involves choices and a focus on the initiatives which will make the biggest impact on the student experience and institutional health.
  • Focus – a strategic plan which gets beyond three to five organizing themes makes focus challenging
  • Living – these days you don’t hear much about “long range planning.”  Strategic plans need to have structure, but they also need to have the ability if not expectation they will need to flex at some point to take advantage of a profound opportunity (someone gives you a transformational gift, your biggest competitor closes, for example) or deal with a major challenge (global pandemic, economic disruption, an institutional image/public relations crisis, for example).

How Does Fuller HES Help You Develop and Implement Your Strategic Plan?

We work with your team to follow the steps outlined above, beginning with senior campus leadership in retreat mode.  Out of this retreat emerge several strategic themes which we now test with both the board and your faculty and staff to gain their insights and buy-in.  We help you form a strategic planning task force which helps refine ideas into plan in preparation for board approval.  Once the plan is approved, the task force shifts its attention to implementation and accountability.

Developing a strategic plan following these steps takes five to nine months depending on schedule and institutional priorities.  The focus then shifts to implementation support for another six to nine months (or beyond).

Helpful Terms

  • ECHE – Evangelical Christian higher education offers both traditional and post-traditional students a unique experience in and out of the classroom.  ECHE refers to the mix of evangelical, Christ-centered institutions who are members of organizations like the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE), the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS), the North American Coalition for Christian Admission Personnel (NACCAP), the Association for Business Administrators of Christian Colleges (ABACC), the Association for Christians in Student Development (ACSD), and other like-minded organizations.
  • Strategic Enrollment Health – the goal for every campus is to enroll enough of the right students, and this is an accurate definition of strategic enrollment health.  “Enough” refers to meeting quantitative enrollment goals; “right” references the qualitative aspects of finding students who embrace the institutional mission.
  • Net Tuition Revenue – while many boards and higher education leaders focus on discount rate, net tuition revenue, defined as the difference between what you charge and the aid you award, is a much more helpful metric.  

Did You Know?  Enrollment Research Nuggets

Founder Tim Fuller has conducted research on the cost to recruit a student, staffing, budgets, and the first-year recruitment funnel for more than 30 years.  This research is now conducted under the auspices of NACCAP (www.naccapresearch.org).  Here are some highlights from the latest Admission Benchmarking Study.

Did you know?

  • The cost to recruit a traditional student at NACCAP colleges has increased by 153% since 1993 and only 52% of this can be attributed to inflation.  Had the cost to recruit a student followed inflation exactly, it would now be only $2,550 instead of $3,577.  Cost increases are driven by increasing competition, labor costs, demographics, and public perceptions of the value of a college education.
  • The smaller the enrollment, the higher the cost to recruit.  The smallest institutions in the study (less than 450 total traditional undergraduates) spend an average of $4,724 to recruit a student while the largest institutions (more than 1,800 total traditional undergraduates) only spend $2,831.
  • On average, a recruitment FTE (full-time admission counselor) produces nearly 63 new students.  This number is less at smaller institutions and greater at larger institutions.  It also does not account for the impact coaches have on recruitment numbers, especially at campuses where more than 50% of the new students are student-athletes recruited primarily by the coaching staff.
  • New transfers made up an average of 16.1% of total new students for fall 2019.
  • Only 54.5% of the participants have established a senior admission counselor position as a next step to which new counselors can aspire.
  • On average, only 68.2% of those who applied to participating institutions completed the application process so that an admission decision was made on their behalf.  This represents one of the biggest opportunities for change for many NACCAP institutions.  Simply put, many are striving to get more applications when a sounder, more efficient strategy might be to improve their completion rate.

For a comprehensive look at the 2019 Admission Benchmarking Study, download the PDF at https://s3.amazonaws.com/credo-naccap/documents/Admission%20Benchmarking%20Study%20-%20Summary%20Report%202019.pdf (surely there must be a simpler way to list this URL!)

Fuller HES  – Leadership Counsel

As the president of a Christian college, where do you turn when you need advice or a listening ear?  Your campus and your board expect you to be an expert and have the answers; what do you do when you don’t have them or aren’t sure which option is best?  How do you consider alternative solutions to challenges or weigh the merits of opportunities in a safe space?  What if your senior team, faculty/staff, or board needs to hear from an outside expert; where do you find someone who understands the larger context of higher education and also has deep understanding of the unique nature of a Christ-centered college?

Leadership counsel provides presidents and other college leaders with a safe place to talk through challenges and opportunities with a trusted, experienced expert.  This is available in several different forms, customized to meet your needs.

  •   Leadership Focus Days – need a day to focus on your own agenda?  Fuller HES provides a limited number of free consulting days (travel expenses only) for presidents, either on your campus or in another setting.  You set the agenda for the day’s conversation.
  •   Leadership Counsel – Virtual – options include six and twelve month engagements with a monthly scheduled Zoom meeting as well as unlimited phone/email access between meetings.
  •   Leadership Counsel – Blended – this option combines in-person and virtual connection in a year-long engagement which includes four in-person visits to campus (or the setting of your choice) plus monthly scheduled Zoom meetings.
  •   Workshop/Retreat Facilitation – options include guest speaking engagements as part of a larger meeting as well as full retreat facilitation for one or two day events.