Presidents of institutions like Adrian College are well aware of these pressures every time they try to find the financial resources to advance their institutions .Except for the seventy wealthiest institutions, the rest of us rely on head-count. Tuition, room, board, and fees are the mother’s milk of financial security. However, the economy is still tough. Wages are down, student debt is up. The pool of students who realistically believe they can attend a small private college is quite small.
When enrollment is down and tuition income drops, an institution’s first response is to cut: cut faculty, defer maintenance, and squeeze students into fewer and shoddier facilities.
This is absolutely the wrong response for tuition-driven institutions.
Instead invest in extracurricular and co-curricular activities that will attract interested, motivated students. This is the quickest and most predictable way to grow your student population.
Adrian launched an Admissions Growth Program in 2005 when, our enrollment was fewer than 900 students. By 2015, through a targeted plan to leverage our extracurricular and co-curricular activities, we have more than doubled our enrollment to 1,703 students.
By way of example, a $6.5 million investment in an ice rink and ice sports now adds 200 students annually and over $4.2 million in tuition, room, board, and fees. This is the only model I know of that can quantitatively demonstrate that we have attracted students to a qualitatively attractive college experience. The thought process behind this program has been further expanded to 36 other sports and activities.
When enrollment falls, when tuition revenue drops, when costs exceed revenues, administrators look around and ask, “What should we cut? What should be prioritized?” The answer is: Do not cut. Invest. Invest in enrollment. Leverage your institution’s extracurricular and co-curricular activities in a targeted manner to bring students to campus. They will be excited about joining a team, about finding people who share their interests. They will create a more vibrant institution. And they will come.
In his chapter, Dr. Docking provides additional guidance on how to identify extracurricular opportunities that may provide a competitive advantage for your institution.
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