Optimal enrollment: SEM for small colleges

by Arnold Arredondo,  Ph.D., Dean of Enrollment Management, Baptist College of Health Sciences, John Berger, M.A., Registrar and Director of Records, Baptist College of Health Sciences, and Rose Mwayungu, Ed.S., Assistant Director of Enrollment, Eastern Virginia Medical School.

The year is 2002. The “#” is still called a “pound sign.” Wall mounted phones are still used by everyone. Facebook doesn’t exist and texting is still pretty new. You probably rent your DVDs and VHS movies from your local Blockbuster Video Store.

Yes, you remember Blockbuster stores with their rows and rows of VHS movies and DVDs. Meanwhile, other businesses were beginning to innovate with kiosks, streaming options, and mail order movie rentals. At one point in 2002, Blockbuster even had the chance to purchase Netflix, but didn’t! Change was on the horizon, but they opted not to change their movie rental model.

If you were the CEO of Blockbuster years ago, what would you have done differently? How would you have kept your customers? How would you have adjusted your business model to adapt to the changing movie rental culture? Online streaming and Redbox were getting started and about to change how the game was played.

Ultimately, failure to adapt to the changing movie rental paradigm caused the demise of Blockbuster stores.

Ultimately, failure to adapt to the changing movie rental paradigm caused the demise of Blockbuster stores.

What are some of the changes taking place in higher education and how can we adapt?

Like Blockbuster, colleges are experiencing a change in higher education with a need to adapt quickly. Brick and mortar institutions where students meet in classrooms are no longer necessarily the norm. Students are becoming more adverse to student loan debt. Recent studies also predict a decline in enrollment due to decreasing demographics.

In recent years, the college response to enrollment management was primarily a glorified admissions strategy. The demand was so high that even non-selective colleges had a steady stream of applicants. With today’s changes in higher education, this steady stream of applicants is no longer guaranteed.

In particular, small colleges are more vulnerable to major changes in the marketplace. With budgets driven largely by tuition, resources can quickly become limited. Adequate staffing support, implementation of technology updates, new marketing strategies, and student services are often impacted due to scarce resources. Additionally, resistance to change can negatively impact a small college’s ability to evolve.

Do you have a systematic way to take advantage of opportunities, answer challenges, and develop innovative measures? Do you know where to start? Is your small college considering implementing a strategic enrollment plan?

Strategic enrollment management for small colleges provides a solution for many of today’s challenges. Learn how to develop a framework for strategic enrollment management. Please join Arredondo, Berger, and Mwayungu at the 2018 AACRAO Annual Meeting for an entry/beginner level presentation, “Optimal Enrollment: Strategic Enrollment Management for Small Colleges."

The session will include:

• Reviewing Challenges

• Developing a SEM Structure

• Important Considerations

Register now for the AACRAO Annual Meeting, March 25-28, 2018, in sunny Orlando!



1. Boatman, A., Evans, B., and Soliz, A., 2017. Understanding Loan Aversion in Education: Evidence from High School Seniors, Community College Students, and Adults. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2332858416683649

2. Marcus, J., 2017. Universities and Colleges Struggle to Stem Big Drops in Enrollment. http://hechingerreport.org/universities-colleges-struggle-stem-big-drops-enrollment/