Poll Highlights Top Concerns of Enrollment Leaders


Poll Highlights Top Concerns of Enrollment Leaders

Episode 164. August 29, 2023.

Welcome to the Office Hours with EAB podcast. You can join the conversation on social media using #EABOfficeHours. Follow the podcast on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud and Stitcher or visit our podcast homepage for additional episodes.

EAB’s Madeleine Rhyneer and Autumn Baggett-Griggs explore findings from a recent poll that identifies the top concerns of enrollment leaders. The two discuss the growth of the non-consumption market, the challenges of recruiting Gen P students—those heavily impacted by the pandemic—as well as unexpected impacts from the recent Supreme Court ruling on ways that colleges engage with prospective students.

They also share advice for admissions leaders on how to address these challenges.



0:00:10.4 Speaker 1: Hello and welcome to Office Hours with EAB. Today, we share findings from a recent poll of admissions leaders to find out what they worry about most. We'll examine the growth of the non-consumption market and offer tips on better ways to engage Gen P students, those most impacted by the pandemic, who are less confident and who may need more encouragement from you before they're ready to enroll. There's a lot to unpack here, so give these folks a listen and enjoy.


0:00:43.2 Madeleine Rhyneer: Hello and welcome to Office Hours with EAB. My name is Madeleine Rhyneer, and for many of my friends who are listening, you know that I'm the vice president of consulting services and Dean of enrollment management. I've led enrollment teams at multiple universities myself, and now I'm working with a number of institutions to identify best practices and to help leaders like you figure out what's gonna work to address your particular challenges. Today, we're gonna talk about a survey of admission leaders that we conduct every year to find out what keeps them up at night. I kinda hate that phrase because I think... I remember as an enrollment leader, I was up at night all the time. It almost didn't matter what time of year it was, there were always things that were on your mind that you were concerned about how that's gonna go.

0:01:26.3 MR: Our most recent survey at EAB, this occurred at the very end of 2022, and we're gonna revisit those findings and talk about what's changed since. With me to discuss this is my colleague, Autumn Baggett-Griggs. Autumn, would you mind introducing yourself and telling us a little bit about your role at EAB?

0:01:43.3 Autumn Baggett-Griggs: Yeah, that sounds great. Thanks Madeleine, I'm glad to be here on the podcast. I work with EAB's marketing team, and I'm focused on enrollment services through Enroll360. I've been here a little over two years now, and part of that I spent some time in admissions and enrollment marketing and higher ed. And I'm really excited to visit this survey today because it's kind of like a full circle moment, coming from higher ed and now working in marketing for enrollment teams. Madeleine, you wrote a blog post back in January that reported on these findings, can you give us a recap of some of your biggest worries among admissions leaders at that time?

0:02:18.8 MR: Yeah, I can. And it's really interesting. The survey actually had about 20 choices, and we're gonna just summarize really quickly the top five "winners" and I'm doing quote-unquote with my fingers. If you can call them that, among chief enrollment officers concerns. So, number one would be understanding and adapting to the new enrollment landscape. And really what that means is understanding and adapting to changing consumption patterns, fewer students were going to college who had graduated from high school pre-pandemic, but of course that accelerated. And then it's intermingled now with the demographic decline. So, enrollment leaders are confronting, non-consumption and declining potential students as a group. And they're also confronting, I think some changes in shifting market share and in terms of student preferences and where they're going to college. So, that big bucket was that number one winner across the board.

0:03:12.4 MR: Number two would be pricing strategy. And I think the term pricing strategy is a little bit misleading, there is some renewed interest, I will tell you in price resets. There was a flurry of activity around that 10 to 15 years ago, it actually did not drive the long-term financial and enrollment results institutions we're seeking. But we may have reached a tipping point in cost and family's sense of perceived value, where we see people looking at price resets again. So stay tuned, we may have more about that. But pricing strategy, really in this case, is how is it that enrollment leaders are able to frame cost of attendance and share information about the value that the student would gain from choosing to attend their particular institution. How do they contextualize that in a way that makes families think, yes, this is a good investment for us?

0:04:02.8 MR: Number three is how to differentiate effectively your student value proposition. And this kind of makes me laugh because we've been talking about this forever. I think the challenge for higher enrollment leaders and higher ed in general is, if there are 2500 schools in the country that offer baccalaureate degrees, you're all offering a baccalaureate degree. So, the key for a successful marketing endeavor, I think, is to be able to be very clear and concise about who we are and what it is that we're offering students. So, that they don't just see you as yeah, you're just another person who offers a bachelor's degree in the area, I think I'm interested in pursuing.

0:04:38.8 MR: Number four is recruiting generation P, the students in the pandemic, and we'll talk about them a little bit more. Because they are a subset of the Gen Z group that we've been seeing in college and recruiting for some time. And then number five, finally is identifying and implementing highly effective recruitment marketing practices. And I bet you've got some great insights to share on that, Autumn. And since I know you've looked at the survey results yourself, is what jumped out at you in terms of the concerns that you saw expressed that I've just sort of summarized?

0:05:12.9 AB: Yeah, actually, the thing that jumped out at me the most is gonna be a little bit in the weeds and maybe just like an underlying theme of everything else that's going on, which is about an infrastructural improvements. I remember on our team, we had just some clunky different pieces of tech that didn't always speak to each other, whether that was in admissions or on the enrollment marketing side of things. And when your tech does not work the way you need it to, and when you're trying to recruit from the same pool of applicants that you've already been working for a long time, it is crucial that you look to your tech and see how you can do better. Not just for the students that you're trying to recruit, but for the teams that are also... That you're serving.

0:06:01.1 AB: If you're on that team and you have almost exhausted every strategy that you can come up with, and your tech is just not working, it's like having your hands tied behind your back trying to do everything that you can. So, I think that's something that I... It's like my personal wish list as I was reading through the survey results, I wish that was a little bit higher up on enrollment leaders minds, but among all of the other things changing in the enrollment landscape, I guess it's not surprising that some of the other things have come first.

0:06:34.7 AB: But yeah, that's one of the biggest pieces of change that I was hoping to see. Speaking of change throughout the year, I think admissions teams are trying to understand the subset of students that they're looking at, that we've kind of earmarked as Gen P. Would you mind explaining what who Gen P is, and giving us some examples of how colleges are working to support these students. Like I know psychological health is a pretty big topic related to Gen P and academic preparedness. But are there other things we should know about them compared to other student groups?

0:07:12.7 MR: Yeah. So, I think this generation P subset, I love it. EAB has these naming conventions, and I don't know if anyone else is calling them Gen P, but we are. This subset of Gen Z, they're really fascinating students, and of course, you already have some of these students on your campus. And in general, our researchers have identified the following traits, there are five of them that we think are gonna have a material impact, not only on teaching these students effectively once they enroll, but actually getting their attention and gaining their trust and engagement during the recruitment process.

0:07:44.6 MR: So, first of all, everyone acknowledges that academic under preparation, which really is the result of learning loss from the set that... The onset and what happened during the pandemic, the virtual learning environment that many students just would argue wasn't... It just wasn't as great. It was not as good as it would have been if they had been in school. The impact of this, students are certainly smart enough to understand I probably didn't learn as much as my brother or sister who's five or six years older than I am, who didn't have to go through this. So, they are anxious about their learning loss. They recognize that they have losses, and it causes them to question their confidence about being successful in college.

0:08:26.5 MR: So, we know that teens are anxious in general, but they were anxious about many things, now they've added anxiety about my ability to compete successfully in college. The second thing that we know from a variety of our own work and a lot of what we're hearing from our friends in college and in high school, is that students are less persistent. One high school counselor expressed this in a very compelling way, I thought. She said that if a student encounters many barriers as they're applying to college, they just simply step away. Where previous generations would have thought, "Well, darn." And kind of stiffen their spine of thought, "Okay, I can push through this, I can figure out how to make it work."

0:09:04.7 MR: Her observation is that some of the students that she's serving, these are very able students. Well able to go to college, are just like, "Whoa." And it starts to make them think, "Maybe this isn't for me." So, this lack of persistence, lack of what some people would call sticktoitiveness. So, you wanna think about that as you're reaching out to students. We also know from our own internal surveys, students are much more dependent upon the adult advisors and role models in their life. So, parents, family supporters, they report that the number one vehicle that they used to make decisions about college is your website, and number two is their parents.

0:09:39.8 MR: I jokingly sort of referred earlier in the pandemic that some of this was the positive result of all that good at home time with family members. But I have come to appreciate that. I think that that is a piece of it, but I think there's more. They're actually super dependent on what other people think and how other people are advising them, and of course their parents and family supporters are their most trusted advisors. And parenthetically, I would say for those of you who are of a certain age who may be listening. When I was applying to college no one ever said, "We are going to college."

0:10:12.4 MR: And if my parents had said that, which God bless them, they didn't. I would have said, "No, actually, I'm going to college and thank you so much for all the support that you're providing to me and not only helping me choose, but then paying for it when I went." Students today, when they say or their family supporter say, "We are going to college." They're not kidding. This is very much a family decision, so remember that you not only have to win over students, you will have to win over their family supporters as well.

0:10:38.6 MR: We also observe that students are under-socialized. And this is a result of being digital natives. You probably observed this yourself, as you look at groups of teens, it could be groups of your college students in a dining hall or hanging out somewhere. It could be high school students that you see, they're all on their phones and they're just as likely to text one another across the table as they are to look up from their phone and actually speak to a person. So, this disconnected-ness that comes from I communicate with you from a distance, I don't communicate with you so much in face-to-face relationships. Of course, totally exacerbated by the time that they spent out of school during COVID, that's having an impact on them.

0:11:18.1 MR: And then finally, they're disengaged. Faculty members report that routinely students won't come to class or that they just don't turn in papers or assignments. And of course, I keep thinking, oh my gosh, I must be so old, I'm so old school. It's really hard to learn anything if you don't go to class. And turning in assignments, I was never... I was not acculturated to believe that that was optional. So it's... They have a very different way of looking at things. So, when you think about how you're trying to get students attention to raise their hand and say they're interested in you. Or why it is that you might have to ask them to apply, not once, not twice, but 10 times or even more. Is it because it just takes a long time to get their attention and to get their attention away from whatever else it is that they're doing.

0:12:01.4 MR: And then how to get them over that hurdle, once you've admitted them to choose your school rather than others. Another piece of information that I've talked about in a webinar is some data that our own research team found that was done at Stanford University. So, there were a group of psychologists who actually did some work and they were trying to examine what's happening with Gen Z. Let's just talk about Gen Z in general versus previous generations. And there are always some differences in behavior that have to do with generation and age. But they came up with some factors that they believe are actually material, they're not just... It's not just because the boomers are old and Gen Z is younger, it's because there are actual material differences in the way that they look at the world, and here are the...

0:12:43.7 MR: Here are the things that they kind of focused on. And they think that some of these are due to Gen Zs focus on individualism and high performance. So, very much individualism students are really interested in being high performers in whatever it is that they believe that they're performing in. But so, some of these traits that Gen Z exhibits compared to other generations, other cohorts, like millennials, boomers, etcetera. Some of those... The things that they struggle with is they really struggle with adaptability and resilience. They struggle with drive and motivation, they struggle with mood, lots of anxiety, lots of depression, amongst young people. We know this to be true from the experience we're already having on our campuses.

0:13:22.3 MR: And in their ability to interact with, to relate to and to see themselves with others. And they are... The Gen Z students in every one of these measures rate themselves much lower than previous cohorts. So again, these are believed to be material differences, meaningful differences, not just the differences because you're young or because you experienced this great disruption in your education and socialization, that was the pandemic. So, think about this then, in the context of the recruiting relationship. We're trying to engage students who are less engaged, less confident, less able to navigate and more willing to walk away when the going gets tough.

0:14:04.5 MR: And that's why my friends at EAB constantly reminding all of us, that you have to examine every aspect of what I lovingly referred to as the wooing process. How it is you get their attention so that they will express an interest in your school. Getting them to apply for admission, getting them to actually choose you, and then all through the onboarding process. And it used to be recruitment sort of stopped at deposit, then it's sort of stopped at the day that they enroll, and all of our most recent survey data, including our most recent college freshman survey, suggest you have to keep luring these students and reminding them over and over again why this was a good choice and helping them with some of the social skills that... Where they're feeling anxious, or lack of ease.

0:14:48.7 MR: And so, when you think about all of these business processes that we all have to have, that those are important, and I love it, Autumn. You talked about systems. So, think about how do you not only have highly effective systems, 'cause every operation needs that? But how do you have systems that actually account for some of the personal anxiety that students have. So, systems that are able to help people get over hurdles and don't create additional barriers for students, so that what I like to call the must-haves versus the just nice to haves. 'Cause the more nice to haves, you can get rid of the fewer barriers that students will perceive and it will be easier for them to actually do the things you're asking them to do.

0:15:26.8 MR: So in general, I would say students are less confident, more fragile, and I would encourage enrollment teams to think they really need... They need adult role models, they need enrollment professionals, to be "people who are on their side." Who are not just selecting, but who are really helping and engaging them and sort of nurturing them through the process. I think they need this more than ever to open those doors of college opportunity. What do you think Autumn?

0:15:54.2 AB: I love the way you said that. As a student, I took some time off and I really needed to take that time off for my own mental health. But there... It's a little different in students today, like I didn't go to school in the middle of a pandemic. So, it's a little more nuanced than that when it comes to this particular topic, but at that time, I just really needed somebody to be on my side. I really needed somebody to be empathetic to the situation that I was having, and I found that... I found two different people that worked at the university that were so kind to me, and they listened to the situation that I was dealing with, and they made me feel like they wanted me to be there and that made me want to come back.

0:16:35.8 AB: And so, you can do all of these, you can implement all these systems and you can take away barriers, and I think that is paramount. But also it's like nurturing the team that you have and making sure that they are the kind face of your university that you want to present to these students. I think that's a big piece of the puzzle too. And that's something that is... It's hard to quantify. Sometimes it's just a feeling that you have about the teammates that you're with, but I think it makes all the difference for students. But that break was helpful for me and I came back, but we're finding that students now aren't just taking breaks, like we may have been used to in the past, they're just totally opting out of college all together.

0:17:18.6 AB: And I'm wondering if you think admissions teams are focused on the idea that their competitor is not just the college down the road, that it's not college altogether. Our college is prepared to face that and are there colleges out there that are addressing this in a proactive way?

0:17:39.9 MR: I think it's a really interesting question. It took me a while as a former enrollment leader to sort of wrap my head around the whole non-consumption question. Because we see this happening, and I think that it's actually not very well understood. And that's said with a lot of love, it isn't that enrollment teams aren't super smart, and on top of things it's because they have a lot of things. There are a lot of balls that they have in the air that they're juggling.

0:18:04.6 MR: So, this whole concept of non-consumption and then I think more to the point, what are you gonna do about it? I think it's a really important question and not well understood. The thing that people are often surprised is, when you look historically, that percent of students starting in 2010 that actually earned high school degrees went up. The percent of high school students finishing their high... Getting their high school diploma at the same time that college attendance rates were going down. So, what people felt was this incredible shock wave during the pandemic. But it actually, it had been happening for a while, and then of course, there was a big shock wave.

0:18:36.9 MR: So, coming out of the pandemic, you see a bit of a rebound in enrollment. But now you've got... You continue to have about 32% of students saying, "I'm just not going to college." Some students were not ever gonna go to college, it wasn't gonna be the right fit for them. But there are a number of students in that percent who aren't fully capable of going to college, would benefit from a college education long term, but are just for whatever reason are stepping away.

0:19:01.0 MR: So I think you've got this kind of... It's a two-pronged problem, and both of them are tough, you've got a diminishing pool of students from which to recruit because there's smaller populations that are going through high school and graduating, and then a greater number of those students are actually thinking, maybe I'm not gonna go to college. And are choosing not to go. And I have to say, I told you that I sort of struggled with this, Autumn. My big aha moment was when I started to think about this, and I thought in my enrollment leader world my job was, you talk to people who were really thinking about going to college. So they had already made the decision they were going to college.

0:19:36.9 MR: And your job, if... So to speak, was I need to persuade you that my college is the best fit for you, of all the potential places that you may be considering. And I think in this sort of new paradigm, enrollment leaders have two jobs, one is we need to help people understand why college is a good decision. And then once I've helped you off the fence about, Yeah, I might not go to college, then I have to persuade you that my college, amongst the other schools that you'll be considering is a really great option for you. And I think it's the first part of that equation that people really haven't kind of... They haven't wrapped our heads around, first of all, Is this really my job, and I think unfortunately, it has to be 'cause there just aren't enough people, so you're gonna have to talk some people off the fence, all of us are.

0:20:21.9 MR: And there are many societal reasons, I think that is a good thing to do, but it's a new definition, but I work with many regional public institutions around the country whose mission has been open access and opening those doors of college opportunity, and there I think many of them are on the front line of, we are worried. Because many of the students that we served in the past, are those who are thinking, "Maybe not. Hot job market, I can make $25 an hour. I come from a family of constraint means maybe I'd be first in family, I just may not go to college." And many regional publics have changed generations of students of lives in that category. So they're really thinking about, we wanna make sure that students don't stay on that fence, that they don't step away from college. And I think there are some really interesting things that are happening there.

0:21:14.1 AB: Yeah, I agree, and I think, you know, aside from just... This situation is two tiered, right?

0:21:21.3 MR: Yeah.

0:21:23.1 AB: So we have the first core tier, which is, is college worth it? And the second tier, which is differentiators. Do you think a lot of colleges are spending time just on that core tier of, is college worth it versus differentiators now?

0:21:41.2 MR: I, actually... I'm not sure that a lot of places have flipped that switch yet, and I'm trying to think... I was thinking... I'd like to think that I'm pretty intelligent, and it took me a while to wrap my head around it. And so I'm talking to people in every opportunity that I can, because I don't think the market's gonna be large enough, if you just are only talking to the people that are already saying, "Oh yeah, absolutely. I'm still going to college." 'Cause the demographic groups that are growing in our country are those historically that have had lower participation rates. So for the true expression of democracy and a participatory nation, we really need to get more people who might be on the fence, to come in. I will say that I still see a lot of what I'm gonna call traditional recruitment marketing, not that it's bad, but it talks in a particular way and doesn't necessarily speak to the questions or fill the reservations that we see students and their family supporters raising.

0:22:35.0 MR: I mentioned to you that freshman survey, first year student survey. So we survey students after they've completed their first semester in college, because then they can tell us what they actually did, not what they think they're gonna do, which is what they're telling us when we survey them, when they're in high school. And overwhelmingly... And we also surveyed parents in a different survey, but we ask many of the same questions. And students told us the number one driver in selecting where they would go to school was cost, the second was location, and the third was academic program. And I know that that would just strike a knife through the heart of any faculty member of Provost listening because of course, everyone believes that you chosen their institution 'cause they have an amazing program and an amazing major in the discipline you're interested in. No cost, location, however, they're defining proximity to home or non-proximal to home, and then academic program. And students said if they were not attending their first choice college, 'cause we asked them if they were or weren't. If they were not, the single number one huge reason was cost. That was the reason.

0:23:36.0 MR: So it's cost, money, value, cost, money, value over and over again. And parents talked about, what's the thing you're most worried about as you think about your child going to college? How am I gonna pay for it. And then when your student is making a good decision about college, where to attend, when you're in and or what you really want them in is to find their best fit, their best learning and living environment. What, families are telling us is they're finding the option that's best that their family can afford, and everyone defines affordability differently based on their own income and their willingness to pay. So we know students are very concerned about loans, students are borrowing less, fewer students are borrowing. So all the things that they're telling us about debt aversion, worried about cost. Is this really gonna be worth my time and money? 'Cause it's not just your money that you're paying, it's the four years of foregone income and it's your time. It's thinking about who's really able to explain in a way that the people you're talking to can internalize why it really is worth it.

0:24:40.0 MR: You can talk about that college degree earnings premium. Well, blah, everybody can say that. So it's not... You need to find ways that you can describe what's happening at your school and why it's worth it for the students that you're serving. And it has to be more than just data, because everybody reports their 6 month out graduate survey. And everyone reports between 90 and 98% are employed and attending graduate school or doing volunteer work or in the military. So families can't hear that anymore, 'cause there's nothing distinguishing. So it's not just data, but it's actual stories, 'cause I think we all know, you know from your role as a marketer, data is great, 'cause data proves points. But it's stories and human interests that people can actually... Could actually attach to.

0:25:28.1 MR: And for parents, let's be honest, their version of their students successfully launching is they don't move home and live in the basement after graduation. They're able you know to live in an apartment probably with friends, economically, that they're able to start repayment on their college loans when they go into effect, and that they've successfully launched. That's what students are looking for, and that's what parents are looking for. And so how do you... How do you get people to believe that what your school will be offering is actually gonna lead to that outcome. And it has to be, again, tight, concise, meaningful, the families have to be able to connect to it. And it has to be something that makes them think, yup, college is right for me, because that will help them over the hurdle even if they don't end up necessarily at your institution.

0:26:16.0 AB: That's... Yeah, that's very true. I think personally... So I came from kind of a lower income background. We did not have a lot of push from our guidance counselors or any other leaders within our institution and to even try for some schools that would have been perceived as higher costs. Even Ivy League, places that we may have received an adjusted income type tuition payment, we didn't even have that kind of push at that time. So I think if we dial it back and we think about how colleges are reaching out to some of these schools, they really do have to have that story of what... Who students could become. The data is great, but if there's nothing for the students to proverbial sink their teeth into, it's just hard to you picture yourself making that leap from where you are to where you could be and how that college could help you get there.

0:27:12.0 AB: I'm curious if you have any other recommendations for how schools can help frame their story and differentiate themselves from other colleges that might be a little bit more effective than things that have been used in the past, in that traditional recruitment marketing technique.

0:27:28.2 MR: Well, I bet most of our enrollment friends who are listening to this podcast would say, “Okay, we're doing everything. We're trying everything.” [laughter] And I believe that they are. I truly do. It's a very creative group, it's a very highly energetic group, they're super smart. So I guess I would say... I'm gonna remind people to maybe go back just to some basics. First of all, I would say lead with empathy, you've got to lead with empathy. Because I still hear so many admission presentations, even when I've secret shops on campuses and go on on campus tours, it just all starts with it, we do this and we do that, and we do this, and we do that. And it gets tiring. And if you go on very many of those, which we know that students don't visit a million campuses, but everybody kind of say the same thing.

0:28:12.5 MR: So if you could just start with, "Hey, tell me what's going on with you," you know. What are you thinking about? What matters most to you? What are you excited about when you think about college? What concerns you when you think about college? Because it starts a much more authentic conversation, which is a little bit different, I think, than the sort of, "Hey, let me tell you about my school and why it's so amazing and why hopefully you would wanna consider it." That would be a more traditional enrollment approach. I also think that you have to think super hard about who am I talking to. And you're always making assumptions, but we know everybody's worried about cost. We know everybody is just anxious about everything in general. So you don't have to raise that. But if you think about it as you're engaging with students and their supporters, I think that that gets you off kind of on the right foot.

0:28:58.8 MR: So try to meet students where they are emotionally and intellectually. I think you have to get and effectively share that data that really does create a compelling story for you and that can set you apart from the same data that everybody else is sharing. Because you wanna have students and their supporters see how your school will prepare them for the future that they may be envisioning for themselves. And I also think another key is a lot of the enrollment communication that we see, especially I spend a lot of time on institutional websites, there are a lot of features that institutions have, and they're not necessarily framed in terms of, and what the benefit for you is.

0:29:39.2 MR: So I'm constantly joking [chuckle] with my partners about, you just have to remember the so what test. I think teenagers are very cynical, they've been marketed to their entire lives and they can totally sniff this out. So every assertion that you make, picture a cynical team going, "So what?" And so think about when you make an assertion about something and you can say, "And why I think this might matter to you is." And that sounds like it could be a little patronizing, but mostly we're talking to people, they've not been to college. You can tell them about a benefit, but they may not be able to figure out how will I actually use that or what would that mean for me? I'm thinking about that, and if you can actually effectively communicate your culture, then it allows students to make a decision about, "Wow, does this sound like a good option for me or does it not?" And then neither party ends up wasting time. You don't woo someone who then finally makes a visit and goes, "Oh my goodness, no, no, no."

0:30:38.1 MR: "No. This just won't be the right fit for me." And it's funny, I used to think kind of in the middle of my career like really, why do you have a job where you're living on the gut judgments of 17 and 18-year-olds? But I also know from my own career progression when you interview and when you go to a campus for a job and you walk around and you just randomly talk to people, and more importantly, you observe people, you start to get a good picture, like, "Could I recruit for a place like this? Do these look like students? And I'd really like to help and support, and is this a good fit for somebody like me?" And so I gained a lot more respect for that gut feeling that teenagers have. And so I think respecting and honoring that and giving them the information they need to make some kind of gut-check choices as early in the process as possible is helpful. So then again, like I said, nobody wastes their time.

0:31:25.0 AB: Yeah, that gut feeling is so true. And it makes me think about retail shopping, there are stores I go into where I feel like I'm in the right place, and there are other ones where [laughter] I just... I need to go back to TJ Maxx because that's my store. Any who, I know we've covered a little bit about how schools are marketing themselves, since we talked about this survey earlier last year in 2022. But I'm wondering if anything else has shifted in an important way, or are we still kind of confronting the same challenges that we had in January?

0:32:05.8 MR: You know, it's a good question. My guess is that if we were to launch the same survey, probably those same top five issues would emerge, but I think we have some new players. There are always new players in the enrollment and the marketing landscape, there are always new factors, and I think you've got a couple of, I don't know if I call them wild cards. People are putting a lot of attention into the simplified FAFSA because the fact that it's not available and we still don't exactly know what it will be, I think people are putting a lot of effort into trying to plan for what will be our effective response, how are we going to be treating our continuing students, they're so important. How are we gonna be communicating what we're gonna be doing to new families, and of course, it will be a truncated decision season because students won't get awards until probably February 1st at the earliest.

0:32:58.5 MR: So it's like the way it used to be in the good old days, but now everyone got very excited, families have a longer trajectory to make those decisions. So I think you've got the wild card factor that's taking a lot of mental thinking about strategic planning for financial aid and the effective allocation of financial aid. So I think there's that. Then you have the Supreme Court decision, everyone... I hate when I say everyone, I think most people saw that coming, but that doesn't make it any less concerning in the market and what kind of a message it sends. And then now you see the ripple effects related to legacy admission and staff and faculty admission preferences. So I think there is also a lot of head space being devoted to, if we believe in building diverse communities, which you hear everyone describing, how is it that we're going to adapt our recruitment program to make sure that we are continuing to welcome these students into our communities? How are we going to ameliorate what we believe could potentially be the negative impact based on previous state experiences that did not allow institutions to take race into consideration. So I think you've got a lot going on in those two places.

0:34:06.9 MR: I also think when you ask people in December, everything is still possible. Enrollment teams now, for the most part, they know where their classes have landed. So I think there's that kind of like did... We had a goal, did we get to our goal? Did we not get to our goal? Did we exceed our goal? And goals are usually multi-pronged 'cause not just head count and a tuition revenue, then it's the profile of the class. And in state, out-of-state, first generation or not, men, women, all of that. And then finally, I think that that kind of bifurcated recovery of enrollment declines from the pandemic is kind of continuing. And I'll be very interested to see early reports from the National Student Clearinghouse and others to see if some of the tentative recovery that we've seen continues. But those big aggregate numbers mask a lot of variation in market segment and in location of the country. And so I think people are actually confronting what are our goals? Are these realistic goals? Are we gonna be able to get to our goals? 'Cause I don't ever talk to a president that doesn't have a growth goal.

0:35:10.1 MR: And in a shrinking market, just to stay the same, you have to have a bigger piece of the pie. There's only so much pie. So I don't ever wanna argue with the president and tell them, some of this may be mathematically impossible, but some of it may be mathematical be impossible. And I think for teams to figure out what is realistic, how do we manage our own expectations as well as feeding our appetite for whatever it is that the institution is looking for. So I think those are these sort of... I call those the additions since the December survey date.

0:35:42.6 AB: Yeah, that's lots of topics that I know we'll be talking about soon at EAB. So I'm excited to get more in depth into of those topics.

0:35:51.5 MR: Well, so I'm really enjoying [chuckle] this conversation. I hope that you are too. To help us wrap up, Autumn, what do you think a couple of pieces of advice that you would offer enrollment leaders that hopefully are listening today to help them get through. You've talked about systems, you've talked about your own circumstance and people who cared about you and helped you see a path forward. They were invested in you and your success, what advice would you give enrollment leaders to help them achieve the success that they want?

0:36:22.3 AB: Yeah, I think at the core of all of it is to try to be as empathetic as possible to Gen P. It's really just, I hate to use some word unprecedented, but it really is unprecedented, the amount of obstacles that this generation is facing coming into school and trying to be successful with it. I think as a personal connection, trying to tell your school story and be... Trying to differentiate from the traditional recruitment marketing that you've usually done. Help students form their own stories about who they could be because there's some aspirational marketing out there that talks about doctors and lawyers and the typical titles of what you could be if you come out of college. But I think real stories help students make that connection, especially when they don't have that kind of support to lean on, and we know now that Gen P really leans on adults for that kind of support. And try to reduce the amount of decision points around how students find your school and apply and get started. Because, when I think about all of the hesitation that students have, what speaks to me is that there's a lot of decision overload happening. And I think a lot of people approach a big bucket of decisions like they don't want to dive into it, they would rather just throw it away.

0:37:54.6 AB: And so I think that... I think that could explain some of... I don't know if you're ever ghosted by students. Why they don't ever reach back out. So I think examining the communication profiles that you have and communication plans to talk to these students. And simplifying where you can, it would make a huge difference for some of these students and how they reach back out to you as well. That's been some of the things that stuck out to me in our conversation. What about you Madeleine.

0:38:32.1 MR: You know I really love what you said about decision points, trying to reduce decision points 'cause you're absolutely right. [chuckle] And I love it when you're talking about students ghosting you. Enrollment officers, when a student ghosts you, or if they break up with you at the very end, it's April 30th, and they're telling you they're going to another school, oh my goodness, it feels so personal. [laughter] 'Cause you really are invested in them, and...

0:38:53.7 AB: They are so personal.

0:38:56.0 MR: Their success. Oh yeah, it's totally personal, and they break up with you over text really? Oh my goodness. [laughter] But I'm also thinking, well, it's a digital world to them, and it's easier to break somebody's heart digitally than it is to actually have a conversation.

0:39:09.3 MR: I think that there are a couple of things. I think it's important that we all acknowledge that they're headwinds, there's just no doubt about it. But I think in addition to leading with grace for students and families, I hope that enrollment leaders give themselves and their teams some grace as well. 'Cause I think this is really important work, it's meaningful work, and remember that what you do matters as you're confronting those external challenges. So that's my gratuitous advice about not only be nice to them, be nice to yourself, 'cause what you're doing really matters. And it's hard work, I get it. I also think if you can help your institution to find their core DNA, who are you? What do you stand for? And who are the students that you serve best? And then create a narrative around it that doesn't sound like everybody else's story.

0:39:52.5 MR: So families are not able to just commodify you. "I'm just gonna go to the cheapest school, I'm just gonna do whatever." Because you will have something distinctive. And of course, the danger of being distinctive is that not everyone wants you, but I would pause it that in this market being the same as everyone else is not your friend, it will be your enemy. And then finally, I would say, I really hope that people will put some effort into a plan with declining that gets some potential non-consumers off the fence and into college. 'Cause again, with fewer students in high school and fewer students who are graduating choosing to go to college, that's kind of a lose-lose proposition for institutions, and I think for our nation.

0:40:33.4 MR: So actually being intentional and mindful about that as opposed to thinking, okay, I'm gonna let someone else worry about that problem. I'm only gonna worry about the problem of recruiting from my school, I think in the long run, may not serve institutions as well as they would like. So that's it for me. Well, Autumn, thank you so much. It was really great being with you here today. And I wanna thank our listeners for tuning in to Office Hours with the EAB. Thanks so much.

0:40:58.5 AB: Thanks, Madeleine. Thanks for having me.


0:41:17.0 S1: Thank you for listening. We're going to take a brief hiatus next week, but we'll be back soon with another episode of Office Hours with EAB. Until then, thank you for your time.


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