The majority of colleges this year failed to fill their incoming classes and meet their enrollment goals by the May 1 deadline, according to the 2018 Survey of College and University Admissions Directors by Gallup and Inside Higher Ed. And by June 1, many of these colleges still hadn’t met their enrollment goals.
To conduct the joint survey, researchers gathered anonymous responses from 499 admissions directors and enrollment managers about their enrollment targets.
Writing for Inside Higher Ed, Scott Jaschik explains that May 1 has historically been significant to colleges; admitted applicants typically accept or deny their admissions offers by this date, allowing enrollment leaders to assess whether or not they’ve filled classes. But this year, only 38% of institutions reported meeting their enrollment goal by this deadline.
While this figure is higher than last year’s share of admissions directors who reported meeting their May 1 deadline (34%), this is the third consecutive year that the figure has been less than 40%.
And of the institutions that didn’t meet the May 1 deadline, only a few succeeded in meeting their enrollment goals a month later. Jaschik notes that this means many four-year colleges were still recruiting their current classes well into the summer.
Under this reality, it’s no surprise that many enrollment leaders expressed concerned about meeting their enrollment goals. According to the survey, the majority of enrollment leaders (across all institution types) reported being “very concerned” or “moderately concerned” about filling classes. Among community colleges and bachelor’s-granting private colleges, zero respondents said they were “not concerned at all” with filling classes.
But EAB‘s Enrollment Services suggests that the May 1 deadline is just one piece in a broader picture of enrollment health. “Understanding how you are stacking up to your peers is essential to all of us who work in Enrollment,” reads a recent blog post. “But educating your colleagues about appropriate comparisons and context is arguably more important, if you want to use your May 1st results to create buy-in and spark productive, strategic conversations about how to best meet your institution’s goals in the years to come” (Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, 9/24).
Targeting and penetrating a new enrollment market is a high-dollar, high-stakes decision. Modern enrollment offices must rely on accurate predictive models and proven best practices, not hunches to find new students.