When Kenyon College first began working with Financial Aid Optimization (formerly Hardwick Day) in 2003, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Jennifer Delahunty was new to the Ohio school, and she wanted more confidence in how the school was making student recruitment, admissions, and financial aid decisions.
For Delahunty, the focus for improvement was in three key areas: quality, diversity, and access. Case Study Highlights
- $6 million increase in net tuition revenue for first-year students
- 10% increase in number of enrolled students of color
- 18% increase in number of enrolled students through Kenyon’s early decision program
A 3-part challenge: Increase net tuition revenue, expand diversity, improve quality
Kenyon lacked a precise, predictive financial aid model to determine how it offered aid to the top-quality and diverse students it was seeking. And with 100% of first-year students living on campus and more than 75% of income dependent on tuition, there wasn’t much room for error from one year to the next.
Like many selective liberal arts colleges in the Midwest, Kenyon hoped to optimize yield to enroll more domestic students of color and more men while simultaneously raising academic quality and controlling the discount rate. At the time, Kenyon was in a holding pattern at 9% students of color and 44% men in its incoming class.
More broadly, the college also sought opportunities to further enhance its brand, market, and national reputation. Kenyon’s admission overlap group included flagship universities and selective private colleges, but no Ivy League schools and few elite privates.
Together, Kenyon and Financial Aid Optimization developed new, customized strategies focused on:
- Maximizing aid dollars
- Expanding Kenyon’s early decision program
- Designing new no-loan and limited loan programs for students of color
- Increasing its yield of students from middle-income families through better strategic packaging
- Revamping marketing outreach to change how it bought search names from the College Board, devoting more outreach to all-boys’ high schools across the country, and retooling some of its messaging
Making strides in all 3 challenge areas
1. Increase net tuition revenue: Kenyon’s net tuition revenue for first-year students has increased from just over $9 million in 2003 up to nearly $15 million in 2013. The college’s current discount rate of approximately 34% has been more stable than many of its peers. So, too, has its percentage of full-pay students: 56% in 2013 compared to 55% in 2003, a model of consistency during turbulent economic times.
2. Expand diversity: The percentage enrollment of U.S. students of color in the incoming class has more than doubled—from 9% in 2003 up to 19% for Fall 2013. Enrollment of male students rose from 44% to 46% during the same period.
3. Improve quality: The average SAT score of incoming students remained steady, with moderate gains in both the average ACT score and GPA. In addition, Kenyon’s top 10 admissions overlaps now include Ivy League schools.