Skip navigation
EAB Logo Navigate to the EAB Homepage Navigate to EAB home

4 things graduate enrollment leaders want university presidents to know

Findings from our new surveys of graduate enrollment leaders

April 24, 2024, By Beth Donaldson, Managing Director, Consulting Services

Our EAB Adult Learner Recruitment team recently partnered with NAGAP, The Association for Graduate Enrollment Management, to conduct our annual surveys of graduate enrollment leaders around the country. This year’s surveys—which culminated in three research briefs—explored topics like goal setting and achievement, staff workload and retention, and the most effective ways to reach prospective students. With graduate enrollment a top priority for many university presidents, here’s what the folks leading grad enrollment at your institution shared about these topics and more.

Jump to the full survey findings

1. More than half of surveyed grad enrollment leaders are considering leaving their jobs

Staff retention feels like a perennial problem in higher ed. But this challenge became more acute during the pandemic and its aftermath, and graduate enrollment teams are not immune to these staffing challenges. Fifty-four percent of the grad enrollment leaders we surveyed said they are considering leaving their current jobs, either for another role at their institution, a job at a different school, or an opportunity outside of higher ed. For the folks who seek roles in other industries, it likely comes as no surprise that they are looking for jobs that offer better pay and benefits, more support from their organization, and more flexibility.

The prospect of more staff vacancies will, of course, add more stress to the rest of your team. And when we asked grad enrollment leaders what’s driving their stress at work, respondents most often identified “unfilled staff positions” and “heavier workloads” as top stressors, underscoring the need to prioritize staff retention. Other common factors behind staff stress include “unrealistic goals,” “low office morale,” and “mental health of colleagues, family, and/or self.”

2. Institutions that engage grad teams in goal setting more often meet enrollment goals

In our most recent survey of university presidents and provosts, 100% of respondents said growing graduate enrollment is a high or moderate priority. Fifty-seven percent of surveyed graduate enrollment leaders said their goals increased from 2022 to 2023.

Nearly 60% of participants reported that their graduate programs met or exceeded fall 2023 headcount goals. Although more respondents met or exceeded their headcounts goals in 2023 than 2022 (when just 44% hit or surpassed their enrollment goals), incoming market headwinds may make it difficult to replicate this trend. Population decline, growing nonconsumption, and economic changes will all further complicate the graduate market in the years to come.

One trend of interest: we found that graduate leaders who had input into enrollment goal setting were more likely to meet their goals. Seventy-six percent of institutions whose graduate enrollment leaders had a great deal of input met and/or exceeded their headcount goals, compared to just half of institutions whose grad leaders had little to not input.

Resource for your team: building an effective grad enrollment management plan

3. Just 4% of grad enrollment teams have formal AI implementation plans

While 75% of respondents have used AI in some capacity, most of this exploration with AI has been either side-of-desk or for personal use. Only 8% of respondents’ institutions have made the adoption of AI tools a strategic priority, and just 4% have a formal plan to do so.

Explore the immediate and future implications of new AI

But enrollment leaders express interest in using AI professionally, primarily to draft marketing content, field questions, or design and optimize marketing communication flows. These use cases make enrollment work more efficient—which in turn may free up staff capacity, reduce stress, improve morale, and support progress towards enrollment and revenue goals. Despite the challenges posed by AI, including concerns about cheating and effectively educating staff on AI use, 65% of survey respondents believe AI will have an overall positive impact on graduate enrollment in the coming years.

4. Declines in international enrollment and university funding are keeping grad leaders up at night

In our final survey, we asked respondents to consult their crystal balls and share which emerging trends they anticipate will have a positive impact on graduate enrollment—and which will have adverse effects on enrollment growth. In addition to AI, respondents identified Gen Z and the expansion of online options as net positives for graduate enrollment. Conversely, grad leaders expressed concern about the impacts of changing international enrollment trends, decreases in federal support/funding for graduate education, and decreases in university budgets on graduate enrollment.

The concerns outlined above can seem daunting for graduate enrollment teams and presidents to address. But with the right strategy, the right investments, the right collaboration, and the right team, many remain rightfully bullish about the opportunity in the graduate market.

Beth Donaldson

Beth Donaldson

Managing Director, Consulting Services

Read Bio

More Blogs


3 things you need to know about the shifting adult learner market

When it comes to enrolling the "responsible" generation in continuing education programs, learn three higher ed marketing truths…
Adult Education Blog

How Houston Baptist University tripled graduate student enrollment

Despite facing enrollment challenges ranging from incomplete applications to a hurricane, Houston Baptist University has significantly grown their…
Adult Education Blog

The campaign strategy that helped one graduate program see a 4.6x increase in applicants

Learn how direct mail can help your recruitment marketing messages stand out to college students, increase the effectiveness…
Adult Education Blog