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4 Things You Need for a Successful Graduate Enrollment Management Plan

August 29, 2023, By Beth Donaldson, Managing Director, Consulting Services

My colleagues at EAB have conducted several surveys to learn about the state of graduate enrollment management over the past few months, and the results have been revealing. For instance, we found that 42% of surveyed graduate leaders faced increased enrollment goals in 2022, yet only 39% are on track to meet those goals. At the same time, one hundred percent of surveyed university presidents and provosts identified graduate and adult learner enrollment as a strong or moderate priority.

In my experience, and as our surveys confirmed, numerous factors contribute to the emerging disconnect between goals and results, including unrealistic enrolling targets, unfilled staff positions, declining undergraduate enrollments, and the dominance of large online players, just to name a few.

To navigate these headwinds and meet graduate enrollment goals, I encourage university leaders to create and implement a graduate enrollment management (GEM) plan.


Here are four key components of a successful GEM plan.

1. Specific, Measurable, and Realistic Goals

Thirty-five percent of the graduate enrollment leaders we surveyed think that their enrollment goals are unrealistic. While graduate programs can provide additional enrollment and revenue for institutions, goals must be set in an intentional and realistic way. But this is no small task—there are myriad complexities when it comes to developing graduate enrollment goals, like faculty influence, lack of consensus, and program and student variety. Although the specific metrics that should inform graduate enrollment goals can vary by institution type, analyzing key inputs such as your organizational structure and budget model is an effective, and necessary, first step in goal setting.

An increase in revenue


Higher ed tuition revenue coming from graduate and adult-serving programs.

2. An Adequate Budget, Informed by Your Goals

EAB research interviews regularly indicate that the budget and staff allocated to graduate programs do not always keep pace with the growing goals and intensifying spotlight on graduate enrollment. When setting revenue targets, consider the expenses associated with operating—and potentially growing—your graduate programs. This analysis can also provide an opportunity for graduate enrollment teams to revisit whether each program receives the appropriate resources and adjust or advocate for additional resources as necessary.

3. Buy-In from Execs, Faculty, and Staff

Once your goals and budget are set, the next imperative is to ensure that stakeholders across campus believe in the goals and are committed to taking the necessary steps to reach them. Our research has revealed that institutions that involve their graduate enrollment leaders in goal setting are more likely to meet their enrollment and net tuition revenue goals. Involving your staff in goal setting empowers them to make a difference in the overall performance of graduate priorities and allows them to feel a sense of ownership, with shared responsibility and buy-in on enrollment goals.

4. A GEM Plan Review Process

Graduate goals and objectives cannot be accomplished in a vacuum. A great graduate enrollment management plan is a living document reviewed on a regular basis. These review structures can exist within committees, councils, teams, or departments. Regardless, they should be cross-functional and made up of individuals from across the institution who are both stakeholders and decision-makers in graduate enrollment and graduate student success.

Without these elements, a graduate enrollment management plan may lack the necessary information to be truly successful. By ensuring you have realistic goals, adequate budget, faculty buy-in, and review process for your GEM plan, you and your team may be able to avoid common enrollment pitfalls and realize the graduate growth you are seeking.

Beth Donaldson

Beth Donaldson

Managing Director, Consulting Services

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