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The CRM Implementation Cycle - Monday Musings
The Economist recently published this graphic in its #dailychart feature. It’s a graphic representation of Gartner's emerging technologies ‘hype cycle,’ and shows where selected technologies stand in a 10+ year cycle of adoption. Looking at this curve, I was reminded of the number of our clients who are in the midst of their own technology adoptions as they implement new CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software in the admissions office. The descriptions of the different segments of the curve seemed to coincide pretty well with many users’ experiences with CRM implementation. If you’ve been through this process recently, you'll remember the sequence of events. You went through the process of reviewing several alternative products,…Read more

Becoming Paperless Means More than Just Making Forms Electronic - Monday Musings
In the last few months, I have visited two financial aid offices that had recently become “paperless” using an imaging system. Surprisingly, however, their processes were just as cumbersome—or perhaps even more cumbersome—than when they had their old paper files. To be clear, this is not a criticism of the imaging system itself, but rather the way it had been implemented at these institutions. Essentially, they were creating an electronic “paper trail” in the imaging system that mirrored what they used to have in their file drawers. For example, to package a student or to change a package, an electronic worksheet was created in the imaging system. The award was calculated or re-calculated and entered on the worksheet. Then the awards…Read more

Prior-Prior Year is Not Just About Financial Aid - Monday Musings
Applying for financial aid can be a challenge for many first generation and low-income families. For first-time users in particular, the process can be confusing and intimidating. In an effort to provide families with more timely communication and transparency about cost and out-of-pocket expenses, the concept of using income data from one year earlier (“prior-prior year”) on the FAFSA, which has been an option in the regulations for years, is finally gaining traction. Under this approach, students would not have to wait until January 1 of their senior year to complete the FAFSA. Instead, students could apply in the fall of their senior year when they apply for admission using income information from their most-recently completed tax return.…Read more

A Holiday Gift Guide: What Presidents Want From Their Enrollment Managers - Monday Musings
It’s the season for gift-giving, which caused S&K to think this week about what college presidents would like to receive from their enrollment managers. Presidents are so hard to shop for. Here are a few gift ideas for you: A healthy, collaborative relationship between the EM and the chief financial officer. The relationship should be an open, trusting and mutually supportive one. There should be a cohort-based revenue plan, with enrollment, institutional aid, net tuition revenue and discount rates for each student cohort as it enters the institution and then progresses through to graduation. It should be updated at least annually, if not each term. Effective collaboration between the EM and the chief academic officer, too. The EM needs…Read more

Two Ugly Words & One Bright Future - Monday Musings
[Note: This post is provided by Mike Williams, President of the Austen Group, which recently became part of RuffaloCODY. The Austen Group provides institutional research and analysis to private colleges and universities in the areas of curriculum and cost, inquiry to enrollment modeling, and retention.] It is more important than ever that colleges and universities understand the business metrics underlying the academic programs they offer. One needs to understand the external demand for a school’s programs—nursing compared to psychology compared to philosophy—as measured by the number of prospective students who express an interest in each major, and the internal demand—the number of graduates in each major. Then, of course, the cost…Read more

Collaboration between Admissions & Faculty - Monday Musings
Accessibility of faculty is an integral part of the experience at most institutions; this message is most effectively delivered by the faculty themselves. Beyond the obvious opportunities like meeting with families one-on-one during individual visits, allowing prospective students to sit in on classes, and being available at open house events, here are some best practice examples of faculty support for recruitment: Challenge faculty to create “wow” experiences for all recruitment events that will demonstrate what it is like to be a student at your institution, such as: investigating a mock crime scene, performing with a musical ensemble, playing a stock trading game, or participating in a debate. The goal is for each visitor to have an…Read more

Partnership: Admissions and Marketing - Monday Musings
One of the many “turf wars” we frequently observe on campuses is: “Where does marketing report and who sets the marketing agenda?" Often, the pull and tug play out between the vice president for advancement and the vice president for enrollment with the president as the referee. At issue is marketing resources – expertise and budgets. The concern often expressed is that if marketing reports to advancement, admissions and enrollment will be shorted. Conversely if marketing is part of the enrollment management organization, advancement frets that all the resources will be consumed by recruitment, admissions, and enrollments, with none left for fundraising and friend-raising. Some presidents have resolved the conflict, they think, by having…Read more

Collaboration between Advancement & Enrollment Management - Monday Musings
As recently as ten years ago, S&K found the financial aid and admissions offices working at cross purposes at many institutions. In many cases, the financial aid office was focused on staying on budget; the admissions staff was focused on meeting class size goals; and no one was thinking about how to optimize net tuition revenue. Now most institutions have solved that disconnect. However, advancement and enrollment management continue to function as silos on many campuses, missing significant opportunities to collaborate to the benefit of the institution. Here are a few examples: The advancement office focuses on matching donor’s interests to institutional needs but often interprets institutional needs for scholarship support as “more…Read more

Higher Education & Collaboration - Monday Musings
My first class in my master’s program was titled: “Leadership in Higher Education.” The class provided a great introduction to leadership issues in higher education and challenged my thinking about effective leadership in the academy. One of my memories from the class was something the professor said multiple times throughout the semester: “Higher education often fails to have its maximum influence on society because leaders within institutions do not collaborate.” The professor spoke about collaboration at length that semester. Our assignments even centered around collaboration. One assignment in particular required us to identify two offices/areas on our campuses that were not collaborating and bring them together with the goal…Read more

For New Directors/Deans of Admissions, Financial Aid & Enrollment Management: What should you focus on the first three months? - Monday Musings
Hands down it’s the people. It’s your direct reports; their teams and the support staff; the other directors with whom you need to partner; and finally, your supervisor(s). Regardless of how creative and productive you are personally, you will only maximize your potential and produce optimal results through the people with whom you have built a relationship of trust and mutual respect. There are, however, subtle but very real differences in your relationship-building agenda for each audience. The following are some examples: Direct reports – This is your “go to” team and, with the exception of your supervisor(s), these are the people with whom you must forge the most solid relationship, in this case as coach/mentor. You need to get…Read more

CRMs: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly - Monday Musings
A client recently asked me for my perspective on a particular Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software product. As more and more institutions realize they need to communicate in a much more targeted, personal way to prospective students, and capture their responses, interest in such systems is growing. So I gave a lot of thought to this question and realized that I actually think that the question itself is the wrong question. I have seen successes and failures with almost every CRM on the market, which makes me think a particular institution’s experience is less about the product and more about the implementation process and the skill sets and training of folks on campus. Making the decision to buy a particular CRM product is not…Read more

More Applications NOT a Good Thing? - Monday Musings
When are more applications not a good thing? We recently visited a campus that had increased its applications for admission five- fold over the last few years. That sounds like a good thing, right? But there can be some risks involved. First, if your internal processes and infrastructure aren’t prepared for the increase in volume, application processing will be log jammed and turnaround time will be poor. This can make an institution that purports to be small and personal feel like the DMV. Second, if your sales force is now all consumed with application review, they won’t have time to sell. Building relationships and taking the time to make the case for value is critical to high conversion rates, especially at high- cost, private institutions,…Read more

Making the Boss Happy - Monday Musings
Whether you are a counselor, a director, a vice president, or even a president, you are reporting to someone, and here are seven pointers for building a good relationship with that person or group. Come to them with possible solutions, not just the problem. Ideally, you will have gathered some data about the issue, brainstormed for some ideas to address the core challenge, and thought about the pros and cons of each approach. Play well with others. Often you will need to work with staff outside your own unit. Be proactive in working across office lines to enhance processes, service to students, or develop strategies to support enrollment and revenue goals. And, within your own unit, be a team player. Be transparent and think about your…Read more

Training & Evaluating Financial Aid Staff - Monday Musings
What sort of training and evaluation program do you have for your staff? I frequently visit financial aid offices that take a “trial by fire” approach to training, do not periodically audit work product or counseling sessions, and do not routinely conduct performance appraisals. Consequently, it is not surprising that a refrain we often hear in student focus groups is that answers to their questions vary from staff member to staff member. In higher education institutions, people are typically the biggest asset; salaries are typically the biggest line item; and yet programs to ensure maximum effectiveness and productivity from staff are often not in place. The real irony, at least in the financial aid profession, is that there are many resources…Read more

The Shopping Sheet - Monday Musings
I was just looking at the final version of the Department of Education and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau “Shopping Sheet” and wondering how many of our clients are planning to use it. My biggest concern with it is that the “what you will pay” section includes total cost of attendance minus gift aid, rather than direct costs minus gift aid. When I was a financial aid director, families found the whole concept of indirect costs versus direct costs very confusing, so I finally listed only direct costs (tuition, room, board, and mandatory fees) at the top of the award letter, with an estimate in a later paragraph of the other costs they would have for books, transportation, personal expenses, etc. That solved the problem, but doing…Read more

And The Financial Aid Office Reports To... Monday Musings
Where should the financial aid office report? To Enrollment Management? To the CFO? Student Affairs? Somewhere else? We are frequently asked this question, largely because the aid office does not have one natural home. No matter what area oversees it, the financial aid office will have responsibilities outside of its direct reporting line. The aid office provides support and interacts closely with several different areas, including: recruitment and admissions, budget management, advancement, institutional research, registrar, student accounts, and student affairs, all while providing customer service, keeping up with processing, and ensuring compliance with federal and state regulations. Often, the financial aid office is short on resources,…Read more

Organizational Effectiveness - Monday Musings
When institutions create silos, customer service suffers. Stated another way, when colleges and universities organize and create policies and practices from an internal point of view (e.g., administrative convenience, job security, etc.) versus a vision of how the institution looks from the outside, navigation can be a nightmare, service gaps are routine, and redundancies are rampant. Let me cite two examples of administrative dysfunctionality, one that crosses divisional boundaries and one that exists within an administrative unit. First, registration policies that do not take into account the unique need for timely course availability for newly enrolled transfer students can add considerably to time to degree. At a minimum, the admissions…Read more

Less Like a Funnel, More Like a Stream - Monday Musings
We’ve taken to thinking of college admissions as less like a funnel and more like a stream, as students enter the admissions process at various points in the flow and the admissions staff is simultaneously communicating with prospective freshmen, transfers, athletes, musicians, sophomores, juniors, seniors, parents, etc. To manage this increasing complexity, consider giving responsibility for one of these “micro-streams” to each recruiter, just as you would assign them geographic territories for recruitment. Then, for each micro-stream: Use several years of data to set a target for the coming year. Create a mini-recruitment plan, complete with timelines and action steps. Identify the funding and resources necessary to achieve the…Read more

Abrupt Staffing Changes: Are You Prepared? - Monday Musings
I was recently talking with someone from an institution where a key leader in admission and financial aid had given very short notice of his departure during a critical part of the enrollment cycle (application evaluation time and the beginning of financial aid awarding). This discussion got me thinking about another situation I encountered a few months ago at a small institution where financial aid packaging was done manually by one individual who had not documented the process. How reliant are you on key individuals with specialized knowledge? What would happen if these people were suddenly not available? Since financial aid packaging season is here, and you can’t afford inaccurate or delayed offers of financial aid, take a moment to evaluate…Read more

Planning, Decision-Making & Good Communication - Monday Musings
We recently encountered an auxiliary service that decided in May to charge a room deposit of $750 for new and returning students. Rather than incorporate it into the student billing system, they simply mailed out their own bills. Students and parents were aggravated, wondering why they were getting a separate bill and why the amount was so high. Another institution reported that they routinely sent bills with the wrong tuition to students enrolling in one particular program because the registrar wanted to be sure the students were really coming before correcting the tuition charge. The correction (as much as $8,000 higher) left the financial aid office scrambling to adjust aid awards. Similarly, sending out bills without informing financial…Read more

Higher Education Entrepreneurship: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly - Monday Musings
Not-for-profit higher education institutions have the reputation of being slow to change; unresponsive to market demand; and unimaginative with respect to delivery modes. This is beginning to change, however, and one is starting to see more interest in approaches that differ from the standard 12-15 credits, semester-based, course delivery method. While this change is positive in many ways, it is important for the entrepreneurial minds developing new approaches to remember that federal financial aid regulations, and most higher education software systems, in many ways are still driven by traditional delivery modes. Consequently, it can be very difficult to ensure compliance with federal regulations when providing financial aid to students in…Read more