A path to centralization of graduate admissions and recruitment services

At a time when undergraduate enrollment was growing, graduate enrollment at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs (UCCS)* was stagnant. In an effort to infuse new energy into graduate school recruitment and enrollment, the university chancellor suggested the consolidation of graduate admissions services to increase the efficiency of the admissions process.

Moving to the middle

Prior to 2012, UCCS graduate school admissions was a decentralized process, in which graduates sent their applications to individual schools (each of which had it’s own application and deadline). After admissions decisions were made, a list of students to admit was sent to Graduate Admissions -- without any indication of who else had applied, if their applications had been complete, or why applicants had been denied admission. That decentralized application processing could lead to bottlenecks and inconsistencies, so in 2013, the graduate schools moved to centralized processing.

“We started by creating a graduate admissions team,” explained Kelli Klebe, Associate Vice Chancellor for Research and Faculty Development, Dean of the Graduate School & Professor of Psychology, UCCS. “They worked with individual programs to set up how they wanted the information, what the application looks like, what is a complete file, when are the deadlines, and that sort of thing.” Trainings included staff from the graduate school, the admissions office, enrollment management, and staff and faculty in each program.

Now graduate applications are all sent to the same office, and are kept in a central repository for faculty and staff to review. This office can now keep track of what forms are missing, do follow up on applications, and keep track of what admissions decisions are made, and so on, rather than those tasks being the individual responsibilities of the colleges. Once complete, the files are sent to the program for review, which returns it with information on every applicant, accepted or rejected, and admissions decisions letters are sent directly from the Graduate School Admissions office rather than individual departments.

Centralization isn’t unification

The centralization process went smoothly, according to Klebe.

“We had very few bumps,” she said. “We kept clear and frequent communications--relationships that were established before this initiative, so the programs knew that we respected their autonomy and internal processes. We’d built that trust up and they knew we were going to listen and take their feedback seriously.”

Each program still has its own application form, deadlines, and frequency, which did not change with the move to centralization.

“We kept the model that programs can be individualized -- it’s not ‘one-size-fits-all’ admissions,” Klebe said. “We had a lot of individual conversations about what was under the program’s control, and about how centralization was not about taking away control but supporting their goals.”

The reorganization has now centralized and improved on data collection, lessened the burden on programs’ staff who were handling the applications, and ultimately reorganized the application process in a more efficient way that supports everyone’s goals.

“It’s a win-win,” Klebe said. In fact, to further ease centralization efforts, these offices [Graduate School, Graduate Admissions, Graduate and International Recruitment,  and the Enrollment Management Sr. Executive Director] are all moving into the same suite this January.

Other offices’ perspectives

Klebe and three colleagues from UCCS -- the Senior Executive Director of Enrollment management, Graduate admissions assistant director, and a program staff -- will share their various departments’ perspectives in their session “Successfully Centralizing Graduate Admissions and Recruitment Services: Perspectives from Enrollment Management, Graduate School, and a Graduate Academic Program” at the AACRAO SEM Conference. Learn more about the premier SEM conference, held Oct. 29-Nov. 1, 2017, in Phoenix, AZ.

*UCCS is a four-year regional institution with about 12,000 students, 1,700 of which are graduate students in mostly master’s and professional programs.