Effective strategic enrollment management (SEM) plans analyze the forces shaping the enrollment landscape and craft strategies that respond to and capitalize on these forces to generate sustainable enrollment. Once you have determined how your landscape is changing, the next step is to assess potential student segments to determine the return on investment (ROI) of your enrollment efforts.
The Community College Executive Forum‘s new SEM Plan Framework provides templates for you to assess your primary student segments.
A future market assessment of each of your primary market segments (e.g., adult, recent high school graduates, dual enrollment) identifies what your current and potential enrollment efforts can provide your institution in terms of ROI.
This resource is part of the Craft a Future-Oriented Strategic Enrollment Management Plan Roadmap. Access the Roadmap for stepwise guidance with additional tools and research.
However, it’s important to not merely use these determinations of ROI to focus on which student segments can bring in the most revenue. Instead, use these calculations to help prioritize resources to meet your specific institutional goals, whether they be growing enrollment, increasing diversity, or serving local markets.
Determine ROI of enrollment efforts
To help your team determine the ROI of their enrollment efforts, the SEM Plan Framework outlines the following steps:
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1. Get a complete picture of potential market segments
First, you must determine market size and penetration, competitive pressures, and the current return of your marketing efforts (e.g., net revenue, retention rates, average term credit hour).
This assessment could show that, while the high school graduate student segment has intense competition from other higher ed institutions and the workforce, it requires comparatively low recruitment and success investments while providing comparatively high retention rates. Colleges should focus marketing efforts on becoming a school of choice for such a sought-after student segment.
2. Determine the pros and cons of prioritizing a market
A realistic assessment of pros and cons is essential to a holistic understanding of market segments. The prospective adult market may seem full of opportunity, but appealing to such a large and diverse group would likely require a substantial upfront investment.
However, a section of this market, stopped-out students near degree completion, may be much smaller, but require comparatively less effort for a more immediate return. In such a case, a college can use these returns to develop a more robust campaign aimed at recruiting from the larger adult market.
3. Define requirements for market success
Finally, in order to justify investment, determine what is required for your institution to succeed in this market. For example, success in the adult market may require dramatically expanded marketing channels, a revamped portfolio, strengthened advising, or other significant efforts. From the initial crafting of strategy to implementation, use your definition of success in this market to focus efforts around a common goal, create stakeholder buy-in, and serve as a benchmark for progress.
Assessing market ROI is critical for crafting a sustainable enrollment strategy. Following these steps will produce a strategy that is informed by a comprehensive view of the market landscape, prioritizes efforts so campaign launches build off one another, and has a defined standard of success.
Read part one of our insight series on strategic enrollment management
Here's how to start an effective strategic enrollment management plan
As many community colleges find themselves in a precarious enrollment position, leaders have recognized the importance of strategic enrollment management (SEM) planning as a tool to effectively recruit and retain a shrinking pool of prospective students. Through our research, we’ve identified the first imperative to strategic enrollment planning: Analyze the forces shaping the enrollment landscape.