An examination of organizational learning and data driven decision making within two university enrollment management programs
As the number of United States high school graduates continue to decline, research into the most effective ways to recruit and retain college students becomes increasingly valuable. According to the United States Department of Education (Hussar & Bailey, 2016), students graduating between now and 2028 will decrease by approximately 4.5 %. Historically, when focusing on enrollment numbers, college admission offices have recruited students in the door and then let other departments at the university worry about retaining them. In today’s competitive market, this is no longer a feasible option. The focus of this research was to address the declining number of students, and the effective strategies universities can use to recruit students who will progress and graduate. Researchers Kretchmar and Memory (2010) and Seeman and O’Hara, (2006) concurred that to retain students is to attempt to understand students beyond the numbers, looking at students as more than a GPA or test score, and understand what the students are desiring in a college and be prepared to sell the student on that experience. From this research, it appeared that data-driven decision-making can be an effective means to create a successful enrollment management office. Through a practice of data-driven decision-making, organizational learning can happen, which will allow an organization to maintain success and build a culture that sustains that success. Three key themes emerged from the research that will help to inform best practices for other colleges and universities to implement ideas from this research. The three themes are: an organization must have good, usable data and the resources needed to analyze that data; an organization should strive to create a culture of openness, caring, communication, and teamwork to sustain success, and enrollment management is a mix of art and science; an organization needs a successful enrollment manager that is a person who can blend the use of data with creating a well-rounded, meaningful, and impactful student recruitment experience.
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