The Education Writers Association just had their national conference in New Orleans. One of the sessions was called “How the Game is Played in Enrollment Management — is richer always better?”
Panelists included Tally Hart, outgoing Director of Financial Aid at Ohio State University; Ken Redd, Director of Research and Policy Analysis at NASFAA; and Matthew Quirk, a reporter-researcher at the Atlantic Monthly. Quirk has written an in-depth article about enrollment management, an important piece of the financial aid and admissions puzzle that increasingly influences economic diversity at colleges across the country.
The discussion focused on the effect of enrollment management techniques on economic diversity and access for low-income students. All three panelists agreed that financial aid is increasingly used as a carrot to attract certain types of students to an institution, rather than simply a way to help lower income students afford college. Nationally, only 2/3 of financial aid dollars go to financially needy students. Enrollment managers can engineer the admissions and financial aid processes to increase tuition revenue, raise a school’s US News ranking, attract more academically high-performing students, or increase ethnic and/or economic diversity.
Panelists agreed that good enrollment management should also be about retention, success, and persistence. Quirk said it is three times more expensive to recruit a student than to retain one. Redd and Hart spoke about the problem of qualified students passing up competitive institutions for cheaper, less challenging ones due to financial concerns. When students downsize their aspirations, they are less successful, Hart said.
The panel discussed the elite colleges’ competing programs to attract low-income students. They expressed some concern that intense media coverage of these efforts may overshadow other (often more affordable) methods of increasing economic diversity.