Archives for category: Student Paths Q & A

Tim FullerThe admission funnel is a time-honored concept that has been taught to admission counselors for decades but is still often misunderstood, and the implications of misunderstanding it can be expensive and misleading.

Unlike the funnel you might use to change your oil or prepare something in your kitchen, everything you pour in the top of the admission funnel doesn’t come out the bottom. As we gather and review fall 2010 new student enrollment results for NACCAP we see vivid illustrations of the misleading nature of the funnel for institutions that made significant investments in direct mail and other “top of the funnel” strategies where the final new student number is either flat or only slightly higher. There are several important principles at work here to help avoid the funnel dysfunction:
•Make sure your systems for dealing with increased top level funnel traffic are strong and smooth
•Make sure your admission team is armed with some sort of predictive modeling system to help them prioritize their work
•Remember to have the end goal in mind when making your “offer” to generate inquiry responses from direct mail – the point is not to generate more inquiries, the point is to enroll more students. Adding more unqualified inquiries may only serve to clog your systems and overwhelm your staff (and create a false sense of hope for fall enrollment)


Teresa Farnum
Question 1: What % of students drop out because they flunk out?

The reality is that the vast majority of students who withdraw from college are in good academic standing at the time of withdrawal (estimates range between 75-85%). Thus, most students who leave college do so voluntarily—i.e., they do not “flunk out,” nor are they “forced out” by academic dismissal (Gardiner, 1994; Noel, 1985; Tinto, 1988, 1993; Willingham, 1985). Moreover, among the minority of students who are forced to withdraw from college due to poor grades, poor academic performance can often be attributed to non-academic causes (e.g., familial or emotional issues—many of which can be effectively addressed when an institution has proper mechanisms and services in place), an observation that further contradicts the notion that students elect to drop out “simply” because of failing GPAs.

Question 2: The most common predictor of student retention is . . .

The belief that inability to pay for college lies at the root of student retention is another source of institutions’ misconceptions—and inaction. In today’s economy, there is little doubt that finances can be a factor in attrition (e.g., Ishitani & DesJardins, 2002); however, they are often used as a straw man to avoid the more complex and difficult realities of retention etiology. For example, in looking at clients’ institutional data, the most common predictors of attrition generally are not—as many colleges assume— students’ financial status but rather their levels of academic success and social integration. This finding typically holds true across the gamut of students’ socioeconomic brackets, meaning that for student bodies at large, finances are not the primary (or even secondary) consideration in students’ decisions to terminate their enrollment.

Question 3: Is Attrition a “student problem” or a “campus problem?”

Student persistence depends on both student effort and institutional effort, i.e., it involves a reciprocal relationship between what the campus does for its students and what students do for themselves. Indeed, research reveals that retention is higher at institutions where students: (a) are provided with accurate information and clear lines of communication about institutional purposes, policies, and procedures, (b) are given opportunities to participate in organizational decision-making, and (c) have experiences with administration that support rather than impede their progress (Berger, 2001-2002; Braxton & Brier, 1989; Berger & Braxton, 1998). Indeed, while individual-level characteristics impact the student retention equation to a degree (Arum & Roksa, 2011), the aforementioned studies underscore the importance of institutional qualities in promoting student success.

Taken from “7 Myths about Student Retention” – here is the link to see the entire report –

Teresa Farnum is President of Teresa Farnum & Associates. She has worked with more than 300 campuses to improve student learning, success, and satisfaction in initiatives to increase retention and graduation rates. Prior to starting her own company in 2004, she led retention services at Noel-Levitz as vice president of its retention division.

Robert Dillon

Getting the most from a conference – Dr. Robert Dillon is the principal learner at Maplewood Richmond Heights Middle School

Heading to a conference soon? Too often, we rush out of our buildings at the last minute to head to the airport to attend a conference with the details of school flooding through our heads. When we land at the conference, it takes us a few days to decompress, get in the mindset to learn, and inevitably the conference is coming to an end when we are primed for our best growth. To avoid this, think about trying one or more of the following ideas as a way to get the most out of your time with your colleagues from throughout the nation.

1. Think about how you are going to organize your thoughts throughout the conference. How will you organize your notes to make them last beyond the conference? One suggestion would be to write a daily blog post or e-mail summary of the day for your staff. This time of reflection and synthesis are key for ideas to germinate and spread into your building and beyond. Do you have a blog? Look to WordPress or Blogger for free places to start your digital story. Publishing your thoughts helps spread ideas to places beyond your office and your school.

2. Begin learning on Twitter. There has been no better space to grow professionally over the last five years than through the set of loose connections and networks that Twitter can provide. There are tons of great resources on how to start using Twitter, and I’d be happy to help if you reach out to me on Twitter @ideaguy42. Throughout a conference, the best ideas, resources, and conversations will be on Twitter with other colleagues at the conference and beyond. Get started now, so that you can get past the learning curve on how to use Twitter, so that learning will be front and center.

3. Connect with another leader that is attending before you arrive. It is certainly great to have those random meetings in sessions, but it is also helpful to start a new conversation today. Reach out to someone that has written for your industry trade publication, someone that you exchanged cards with last year and have lost touch with, or someone from your state organization with whom you have wanted to learn and share. Conferences are best when people are able to bring electronic or phone conversations to life face-to-face. It is also a great idea to reach out to someone that you wouldn’t normally talk to at the conference, someone that is outside of your normal comfort zone as those conversations bear some of the greatest fruit.

4. Watch a TED talk. It is important to get in the mode of thinking and exploring ideas, and there is no better place to do that than Thousands of incredible ideas are spread through this network each day. Most of the ideas aren’t specifically about education, but they are ideas that provide some lateral capacity building for school leaders. This fresh capacity can bring a new lens to our work, and it can also provide us with ideas that we can carry into education from fields as diverse as botany, rocket science, and poetry.

5. Be ready to share the best stuff at your school. It is so important that the conference feels like a rich marketplace of ideas, and every school has trapped wisdom and ideas that are worth sharing. What three programs are excellent at your school? Why are they excellent? Telling your story to others also helps you and your building grow.

Dr. Robert Dillon is the principal learner at Maplewood Richmond Heights Middle School. He is dedicated to providing innovative and creativity education for all kids through unique experiences and opportunities. He believes that success includes scholarship, but it should work in tandem with leadership, citizenship, and stewardship.

Scarborough Elizabeth
Looking back on 2012, what overall marketing tip do you have for enrollment managers?

In working with college and universities throughout the country, I still find that a lot of institutions manage their “recruitment marketing” out of the enrollment management division and their “image and brand marketing” out of their marketing department. Unfortunately, it is common for there to be absolutely zero relationship between the two. Can you imagine this strategy working well in a corporate setting? Take Best Buy for example. Imagine a scenario in which you see Best Buy commercials on TV and then go into a store to find a completely different image and identity….and a completely different set of marketing messages being communicated in collateral materials and from the sales team. That’s crazy, you say? Yes it is. But, that’s the approach many institutions are using, by default.

Why is marketing integration important, especially in 2013?

By integrating the recruitment marketing strategy with the overall image- and brand-building efforts of the institution AND also integrating the fundraising marketing strategy, an institution is maximizing the effectiveness of its marketing dollars across the entire enterprise. It’s good to remember that when it comes to marketing, every institution is stronger united, than divided. The more you can integrate and coordinate all the marketing that is occurring around your institution, the more effective your institution will be as a whole. In most cases, the reason integration is so difficult is because of the politics and power struggles we have going on within the organization. Every office or division wants to implement their own strategy; one they believe is “right” for their audiences and goals. It’s the same problem we are having in Washington right now. We should take a look at what’s going on in Congress and do the opposite. More collaboration and more focus on the larger picture. These are the elements that will lead to greater marketing integration on your campus. If you have ever complained that your institution has “no brand” or a weak brand strategy, ask yourself what YOU are doing to help your institution work toward a simple, focused message that can serve as the foundation for communications with all internal and external stakeholder groups. When undergraduate recruitment, graduate recruitment, fundraising, alumni relations, marketing staff members and others around your campus can work together to develop a coordinated approach to marketing, your effectiveness will skyrocket.

How can you help foster such integration at your institution from your role in admission?

Integrating does not mean you have to give up your authority or your budget, nor does it mean you have to add lots of meetings to your plate. What it does mean is that you need to come together as a team. Reach across the aisle to understand the objectives of the advancement division, the marketing department, and other critical units of your institution. Be a part of the solution that bring greater integration and more marketing coordination to your campus. Get on board with a strategy that can work for the entire institution as opposed to remaining fiercely committed to just your little piece of it. Your piece will be stronger and more vibrant with greater marketing integration. When your entire institution is working from the same play book, your job will be easier.

One of my favorite experiences of the year was presenting they opening keynote address at GEAC on St. Simon’s Island in November. The session was titled, “Why College Can’t Brand.” The moral of the story, of course, was that colleges CAN be effective in branding themselves. But, there are certainly hurdles to get over and they are listed in the powerpoint.

If you would like to learn more about SimpsonScarborough, Elizabeth can be contacted at or by phone at 703.403.0547.

Student Paths Q & A for Enrollment Professionals

by University of Wisconsin-Stout’s Dr. Pamela Holsinger-Fuchs

Pam Holsinger-Fuchs

Q: What tips do you have for others in enrollment management to identify and communicate their distinctions?

A: We did an exercise with our staff that went like this:

If UW-Stout was a car, a store, or a brand what would it be and why? We were all pretty consistent in what we said. It is then up to us to figure out how to share what makes UW-Stout different from another campus.  My advice, don’t assume people know what your campus is about.

Q: How do you convey those distinctions to prospective students?

A: We share Stout Stories of research or contests that our students have won to show them how we apply what students are learning. When the students meet with the Program Directors they share these success stories that have led to our outstanding 98 percent placement rate for our graduates.

Q: How has clearly communicating distinctions helped recruit and retain students? 

A: 95 percent of every college is really similar but it is the 5 percent that makes a campus unique that needs to be highlighted. We also have textbook and laptop rental that is included in the cost of our tuition and talking about these differences helps set us apart, which helps in recruiting.  Because we provide a level playing field for all students and provide other services such as free tutoring and a dedicated advising center this supports retention.

Q: How are the institutional distinctions conveyed to prospective parents? Is there separate messaging and a separate process?

A: Parents are increasingly playing a bigger role in decisions as they relate to college choice for students. We intentionally send postcards about some of our information knowing that Mom and Dad, or a legal guardian, can then read the messaging as well. We also have a four-year and a three-year contract (for 3 programs) that guarantees students can graduate in those timeframes and that is really more of interest to parents than it has been to students. We also do have a parent enewsletter that we send out monthly.

Q: How have you and the enrollment management team worked with others in the institution to clearly convey the distinctions in an integrated way? 

A: We work with our marketing department to make sure that we continually stress our 98 percent placement rates and some of our other messages, such as being the most transfer-friendly school in the UW system. We partner with all of the Deans to have an academic presence on our Stout Saturday events. For the National College Fair, we invite a number of our program directors and the Director of our Honors program. We work very closely with our Athletic Department and have one of our admissions counselors serve as a liaison to the department.  We recently started partnering with our Dining Services and they now provide a free lunch when a prospective student visits campus. These are just a few examples

Q: And why is integration so important? 

A: We need to continually reinforce our messages and all of us need to be on the same page in doing this.

Q: How do you make sure the promises made to students during the recruitment process are kept?

A: We constantly evaluate our policies and programs to be sure that we are meeting the needs of students. We are very data driven and evaluate everything to be sure that we are meeting the needs of students. We don’t say something unless we can provide it. If we cannot do something we are honest about it and do not oversell ourselves.

Q: Why is it so important for institutions to clearly convey their distinctiveness today? 

A: The competition continues to be fierce not only between traditional schools but also with the increase growth of for-profit educational units. Why should someone chose xxx school rather than yyy school?  If there isn’t something that captures students attention you will lose them.

Q: You’ve worked in student affairs in the past, how has that helped you in the admission area?

A: I understand how all of the pieces are interconnected. So, for example, we have an event called Stout Saturday where we bring in several hundred high school students and their parents on a Saturday morning. Well, what are college students doing on Saturday mornings?  SLEEPING! So the campus was not very lively.

Having worked in student affairs, I suggested approaching Residential Life and Student Activities to see if they would be willing to schedule some of their events on these Saturday mornings. Since, we have had a drumming workshop going on as parents and students entered the dining room and the wonderful smell of bacon and pancakes wafted through the air as the Residence Life staff held a Cartoon Breakfast in the hall where we were showcasing a room.

These are just small examples of collaboration among units that have helped to make a difference. Larger issues, in terms of financial aid leveraging and working with transfer credits, have also proven to be effective.

Q: You have a Ph.D., how has that helped you in enrollment management leadership and/or higher education leadership?

A: To work in higher education and have the respect of the faculty and knowledge base of research having my Ph.D. has been critical. I personally loved my program and feel it gave me a strong foundation to be successful.

Dr. Pamela Holsinger-Fuchs is Executive Director of Enrollment Services at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. UW-Stout is one of about 125 polytechnic universities in the country. Holsinger-Fuchs long-time career in higher education has centered on students. She had worked in recruitment and retention as well as student services at universities in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Washington. She holds a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks.

Student Paths Q & A is a monthly column geared toward enrollment management professionals in higher education. Student Paths helps prepare high school students for their future through college, career, and life- readiness materials.

Student Paths Q & A for Enrollment Professionals

by Western Oregon University’s David McDonald

David McDonald

Q: What’s the key to increasing freshmen student retention?

A: Student retention (success) is the result of equal levels of effort and commitment by the student and the university. College graduation must be the students’ goal from the first day. Students must be open to changing work and study habits to meet the increased expectations and independence of college. Students must be willing to admit that they will need help such as academic advising or tutoring and seek such help early and often in their careers. They must be prepared for college challenges and the occasional bumpy road since that is part of the learning process and successful recovery from those challenges is something all employers seek.

Q: What are some tips to increasing student retention?

A: Universities must provide the sustained and accessible support programs and policies. At WOU advising is so important that we meet with students every quarter and advisors receive regular training and support. We are fortunate that for 5 years in a row we have had at least one advisor receive national awards for advising excellence. Our experience with tutoring and our Writing Center is that the best students use the tutoring and writing centers the most. These services are for all students and students who use the tutoring or writing center are the most motivated to succeed.

Q: What’s most important to ensure students who come to campus stay there and graduate? 

A: Connecting the student to the university is the most critical part of the success formula. Connected students use available campus services more effectively and in turn become resources to other students. Connections can come from joining or creating a student club, intramural team, taking on a leadership position, volunteering or even going to sporting or fine art events that are often free to students. Success in college is built upon the foundation of living and learning through the college experiences.

Q: What’s the key to increasing retention and graduation?

A: Commitment from pre-matriculation through graduation. Student success and graduation improvement is the result of a campus commitment and leadership that continues to keep the university focused on student success and learning. The leadership and commitment provide the opportunity to increase programs and supports for students while also keeping class size down. At WOU our average class size has been held steady at 25 students for the past 5 years and we have added new majors, new state-of-the-art buildings, including 1 of the 10 greenest dorms on the planet and have expanded our programs to support students. We have a major student retention committee and all our planning committees include students.

Q: What do you recommend to ensure underrepresented student success — from enrollment through retention to graduation?

A: Universities need to create an atmosphere that fosters the creation and strengthening of a partnership between the students (and their families) and the university. The partnership needs to have as its focus student success leading to graduation. Students must be informed of what it takes to succeed and the university must provide the opportunity and support. In today’s economy that support must also address affordability.

WOU created the Tuition Promise in 2007 to provide students and their families protection from the rapid and unpredictable tuition increases. The Promise locks in a set price per credit for new freshmen for four years and transfer students for a pro-rated number of years depending upon how many credits were being transferred to WOU. This year we expanded the Promise into the Tuition Choice to give students even more flexibility in paying for college.

Q: How have you seen access change in higher education during the past two decades?

A: Higher education has moved from being important as a tool for social and community improvement to being an essential experience. The globalization of the world economy, the intersection of world politics and the near instantaneous coverage and conversations about events and people from all parts of the planet require stronger critical thinking, analytical and communication skills than ever before. The college degree is the most effective and lasting way to develop and strengthen those skills.

The benefits of the degree are greater than ever before, but at the same time the real and perceived cost of attending college are creating barriers to entry and completion that must be addressed.  College is the most effective investment of time and funding that an individual can make to create a future filled with opportunities. And an educated community is the most lasting and beneficial investment we can make as a nation, a state or city. The biggest challenge we face is how to connect the policies and priorities in a way that leads to lasting and strong economies and communities.

Q: Why is access so important to you?

A: Personally, I am like many others at WOU. I am the first member of my family to attend and graduate from college. Like many others at WOU I understand the additional challenges that first-generation students may encounter. As a university our mission statement is explicit in having WOU self-identify as a university that promotes access to graduation. We are a public university that has always placed the needs of students at the top of the list and access is the natural expression of that prioritization.

Q: Do you have a particular success story you’d like to share?

A: The Student Enrichment Program (SEP) at WOU is a wonderful example of maximizing resources to expand opportunities for students. SEP started as a federally funded TRiO program under the Student Support Services program umbrella. Twice since its inception WOU has added significant campus funding to expand the program to serve more students who are first generation, low-income, or disabled to enter and then graduate from WOU.

The SEP program’s graduation rate is always near 90 percent and its students are some of the finest citizens who become incredibly successful and supportive alumni of the university.

Q: Anything else you’d like to share?

 A: College without a degree is like a plan without wings or an engine. Both will cost money and time to build, and neither will lift or carry anyone or anything. Students should begin college with the explicit goal of graduating. Student should pick a school that is equally committed and focused on their success.

David McDonald is Associate Provost at Western Oregon University, where, since 2005 he has initiated innovative programs such as the Western Tuition Promise. Under his leadership, freshmen student retention has improved to 73% from 62%, the number of enrolled Latino students has doubled so that WOU is now the state leader in Latino enrollment, and the school has become a national leader in retention and graduation rates for underrepresented students. McDonald’s 20-year career in higher education has centered on student access and success, including college affordability.

Student Paths Q & A is a monthly column geared toward enrollment management professionals in higher education. Student Paths helps prepare high school students for their future through college, career, and life- readiness materials.

Student Paths Q & A for Enrollment Professionals

by Augsburg College’s Sally Daniels Herron

Q: Why is parent/family relations important?

A: It benefits the institution and it benefits the parents.

Working with parents to answer their questions or connect them with the appropriate resource on campus definitely helps with enrollment. During the decision-making process, the program helps by providing useful information and building a relationship. And, being available to answer parent questions on an ongoing basis on myriad topics, such as financial aid and majors, is a retention tool.

It has been my experience that given the freedom and support to move across divisions of a college/university, I can really engage with the 3 populations of parents and families: prospective, current, and past. I have access to the Enrollment Management Division’s database of prospective students, so when a student is accepted I send a personal note of congratulations to their parent(s). When they make their deposit, another personal note of welcome and an “Auggie Family” window decal is on its way to the family.

I provide another touch point with parents/families as part of new student orientation, under the Student Affairs Division. I offer sessions for parents on how to prepare as a family for the launching of their soon-to-be college student. Once the students are enrolled, I work mostly under my own division (Institutional Advancement) to offer many opportunities for parents and families to participate in activities at the college as well as to volunteer at on-campus events.

Three times a year, I send a “Points of Pride” postcard to all current students’ households, with “bragging points” reminding them how proud we are that they’re an Augsburg family and the exciting things happening at their college. After graduation, the bond between parent(s) and the college is, hopefully both strong and proud enough to lead them to become donors (or continue to donate as last year current Auggie parents gave $22,000 to the Augsburg Fund!)

Q: How specifically can parent/family relations add value to an institution?

A: In addition to helping with recruitment and leading to donations, I get “thanks” from parents fairly often saying things like “we are truly blessed to have you along for this ride of college parenting and we are very thankful for all you do!”  In fact, the importance of relationship-building with parents seems to be growing more and more. They feel supported and appreciate that they have someone to call or email.

Q: How long have you been in parent/family relations? How has it changed?

A: I have been in this role since August 2005. Today there are more opportunities to grow professionally, for example, as a member of the Association of Higher Education Parent/Family Program Professionals (AHEPPP). There are also a few more colleges and universities in the Midwest that have or are considering funding a parent/family program. Such programs are much more prevalent on the East and West Coasts.

Q: What are the key ingredients for a successful parent/family relations program?

A: Support across divisions and strong support from the highest levels of leadership. It’s crucial to have a person in this position who is patient and good at building relationships. Plus, it’s been quite helpful for me to have a history with Augsburg College, so that when I do have a parent who comes to me with a problem or a challenge, I know whom to connect with to address and resolve it.

Q: What are some tips for effectively and efficiently engaging with today’s parents and families?

A: I have found that the more information you can provide, the better. At Augsburg, we have a web section dedicated to parents: Parents are sent a monthly e-newsletter. And, I answer my telephone and e-mails in a timely manner!

Q: Any further advice or stories?

A: Although not completely necessary, it has been very helpful for me in this role to have been the mother of 2 college students (yes, both as Auggies!) and to be an Augsburg graduate myself (Class of 1979).

When an upset alumna called to complain that her daughter didn’t make it into the Augsburg Choir as a first-year student, I knew and quickly replied: “Neither did mine! No first-year students make it into the Augsburg Choir! Isn’t it great that our choir is so good?!”

Similarly, when a protective father wanted to move into the Residence Hall with his daughter, saying he’d live on the guy’s floor nearby in case she needed him, I could say: “I completely understand your worry. Let’s talk a bit, shall we?” He didn’t move in…

Sally Daniels Herron is Director of Parent and Family Relations at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, MN. Previously she served in the admission office for 26 years, including serving as Augsburg’s Director of Admission from 1991-2005.

Student Paths Q & A is a monthly column geared toward enrollment management professionals in higher education. Student Paths helps prepare high school students for their future through college, career, and life- readiness materials.