What the NACAC vote means for enrollment leaders

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What the NACAC vote means for enrollment leaders

Last week, the National Association of College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) announced that it has asked its members to vote to eliminate three provisions of its Code of Ethics and Professional Practices (CEPP) in response to a Department of Justice investigation.

Since the announcement, we’ve received many member questions about the potential impact of these changes and whether they should respond immediately—and how.

NACAC asked its members to vote to eliminate the following provisions of its CEPP:

  • Prohibition on recruiting students who are committed to attending another 4-year institution
  • Prohibition on recruiting students who are currently enrolled at another 4-year institutions
  • Prohibition on offering special perks to Early Decision applicants/matriculants

If NACAC adopts these changes at their late-September meeting, we expect them to have a significant impact on student recruitment in the medium-term. These changes will likely rapidly accelerate several longstanding trends we have observed in first-year recruitment, transfer recruitment, and student success.

Increased importance of minimizing summer melt

While many admissions offices have already noted a recent increase in the number of students double depositing (depositing at more than one college or university), this trend will likely accelerate. An already intense yield season will become longer and even more challenging. Admissions offices will therefore need to ensure that they know (as much as possible) how likely students are to actually matriculate. This may precipitate additional investments in predictive analytics to make it easier to triage the highest-cost resources to the most on-the-fence students. 

Summertime already represents a period when university communications often break down. Various offices like student health, orientation, registration, bursar, residence life, and more, all need students to complete various tasks, but these offices rarely coordinate their communications. Colleges and universities should audit communications from all offices sent during this time period to determine if there are redundancies, inconsistencies, confusion, or other unintended consequences that should be remedied. At this important juncture, institutions don’t want to give students any reason to consider alternative options.

How much will this change student behavior in the short-term? At the most competitive colleges and universities, where students are concerned about securing their spot, deposit behavior may not change much. But where students and families sense softer demand, this change may signal to families that they can negotiate with various college options all summer long. Many families and students will want the security of knowing exactly where they will be going in the fall, but others will see the opportunity to get a deal by accepting the uncertainty of prolonged negotiations.

Down the road, some colleges and universities will likely respond by increasing the size of the requested deposit. This would help institutions get a better sense of actual demand, but it would also privilege students and families with the greatest financial resources and social capital to navigate the system.

Improved monitoring of potential transfer-outs and more seamless bureaucratic processes

It’s likely that few colleges and universities will immediately jump at the prospect of recruiting students already enrolled at another four-year institution. But given the number of institutions struggling to hit net tuition revenue targets, it likely won’t be long before this sort of practice is common. 

As some schools start to explore recruiting already enrolled four-year students, progressive universities should expand their understanding of student success to ensure all students have an experience that makes them want to continue at the institution. 

Institutions may begin or ramp up efforts to try to identify students who are at-risk of transferring out, like they currently do with students at risk of stopping out. As with recruitment, schools will want to minimize friction in the bureaucratic processes that students must navigate, so as not to give students a reason to seek greener pastures. 

For-profits will likely be the fastest to adapt

While for-profit colleges and universities aren’t members of NACAC and historically haven’t made major efforts to enroll currently enrolled students, if non-profits start this type of recruitment, for-profits may enter the game in a major way.  Imagine students on your campus receiving emails from Phoenix, DeVry, or Strayer asking if they’d like to transfer. 

Again, this is a scenario from which more affluent students and more selective institutions may be somewhat insulated. But for a regional public or regional private institution that’s already struggling, losing currently enrolled students to a national for-profit university could be a major issue. 

Clear credit articulation policies and communication will be even more important

Even as colleges and universities are slow to wade into recruiting students currently enrolled at other four-year institutions, it will likely happen within a couple of years. To ever compete for these students, universities will need to be able to provide clear answers to how credits will transfer, how much it will cost, and how much time is left in the degree. Colleges and universities that can answer these questions and provide credit estimates earlier in the decision-making process (i.e. prior to application), will have the advantage in proving the value of their program to prospective transfer students. 

These changes may push institutions to invest the resources necessary to build a transfer-friendly recruitment infrastructure. Colleges and universities will need to have strong articulation management practices and clear degree requirements that are accessible during student inquiry. Cross-functional groups (academic leadership, faculty, registrar, and admissions) will need to work together to develop policies and practices that reduce barriers to the transfer student transition and facilitate an easy onboarding process.

Early Decision special offers may become common

Few universities will likely deploy special offers to Early Decision applicants this cycle or next, but this may become more common within a few years. The new ability to have special offers, paired with an increase in uncertainty in the summer months, may create an incentive for some universities to implement Early Decision deadlines if they don’t already.

Expect offers like special housing accommodations, early registration for classes, or even added financial aid incentives to signal to students that if they are willing to make a binding commitment, there may be a deal just for them. 

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