The Origins of Enrollment Management

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These days every person employed by an admissions team knows the practice of enrollment management, but in 1976, that phrase was unfamiliar and generally unpracticed. While Dean of Admissions at Boston College, Jack Maguire, Chair of Maguire Associates, coined the phrase and implemented the first versions of the now essential tool for a college admissions office. In fact, the first use of the term “Enrollment Management” appeared in an article in Boston College’s Bridge Magazine, titled “To the Organized Go the Students” from Fall 1976.

The need for enrollment management stems from the complexity of the basic requirement of every admissions department; recruit the next year's class, and in doing so, balance and meet your goals of headcount, net total revenue, quality and composition, yield, and retention. Do this well, and the institution will thrive and set the pace for the competition, a sort of Darwinian process of natural selection. Previously, admission teams would use intuition and history to attempt to control several independent systems in parallel, only to be thwarted by their interactions. A major purpose of enrollment management is to manage the interactions among silos, as well as the silos themselves, and in the early stages of enrollment management at Boston College there were four separate silos to lead  Admissions, Pricing/Financial Aid, Student Information Systems/Research, Retention. Add these four silos to the binary interactions and the role of a skilled enrollment management leader will be to ensure that ten (!) entities are working well in unison.

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[Ask us for a signed copy of the 2008 Maguire/Butler book EM=C²: A New Formula for Enrollment Management, which explores how the engagement of many functions and constituencies will be essential to optimize measurable outcomes. We will be happy to send you one.] 

Naturally, that led to some major pitfalls and challenges.

First, there was a natural tension between offices recruiting new students and those serving the continuing cohorts. Financial Aid sought to insure enrolled student satisfaction and retention, all too often while short shrifting those whom Admissions was striving mightily to attract and enroll. One of the major successes of Enrollment Management in its early years at Boston College was the synergy between these two crucial silos. Another optimal balance was achieved among the linchpin of Retention and the Admissions and Financial Aid silos. Students would have lower probabilities of graduating and supporting Boston College if they were either "bribed" away from the Ivies or poached from Community Colleges. Perhaps the most powerful early recruitment/enrollment tool was the dramatic increase in the marketing to transfer students, which grew ten-fold at Boston College in the '70s and early '80s. Jack built any strategy on a foundation of retention and extended net total revenue by putting emphasis on the often-underutilized transfer population. 

In a few short years applications to Boston College tripled, and the acceptance rate plunged from 85% to under 30%, making Boston College more selective than in its history. At the same time other measures such as Quality, Diversity, Student Satisfaction, Retention, National Rankings, and Net Tuition Revenue all increased, simultaneously.

Eventually, the concept of enrollment management and the live-tested hypotheses and ideas Jack brought from his experience at Boston College were honed and focused, and Maguire Associates was born. Since that origin, the term and practice of Enrollment Management have become ubiquitous in the field. Now, decades of research and improvements later, Maguire Associates continues to push the boundaries of all parts of enrollment management, implementing new statistical practices and developing technologies to strengthen the original core thought process. The key then, as it is now, is wielding data as a powerful tool, and having the experience and understanding to maximize the benefit from its use.

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Maguire Associates continues to be the major thought leader in enrollment management through patents, individualized awarding, new approaches to research, merging quantitative data with the qualitative, and utilizing new technologies such as our powerful dashboard or looped feedback research clickers. Due to these attributes, paired with the freedom to make client success and satisfaction our priorities without being beholden to public shareholders, Maguire Associates will continue to lead for years to come. Perhaps the most powerful praise we have ever received came from a college president who exclaimed, “It’s sometimes too complex for me to understand completely, but whenever Maguire is around everything just seems to go amazingly well!”

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