The white paper is organized into four sections. The first section discusses the importance of ‘strategic’ and ‘actionable’ intelligence (i.e., research, data, and analytics) in the management of enrollment, as well as the organizational conditions for building capacity in enrollment intelligence. The second section presents a model for defining ‘realistic’ enrollment goals using four lenses in analyzing environmental conditions likely to impact enrollment. The third section defines the elements of ‘meaningful’ enrollment goals that are both strategically aligned and sufficiently granular to be ‘operationalized’. And finally, the fourth section describes the ‘power of process’ and a ‘practical’ step-by-step guide for formulating enrollment goals that are linked to performance management and accountability.

Strategic enrollment management (SEM) is inherently goal-driven and results-oriented. Increasingly, campus leaders are recognizing that to be strategic in enrollment management, reliable and systematic enrollment intelligence (i.e., data, research, analytics) is needed in order to formulate meaningful enrollment goals, focus on the ‘right’ strategies of potential high impact, effectively monitor performance progress in real-time, account for performance results, and ensure the optimal use of available resources. In its absence, investments in performance improvement strategies and program/service innovations are likely to provide only tactical and short-term benefit—an outcome which most institutions can ill-afford.

Identifying enrollment goals is an imprecise science, and goal-setting is markedly different than projecting enrollment outcomes. In point of fact, projections are formulaic in nature and often do not account for the efforts of the institution. Conversely, enrollment goals more broadly consider data and other factors that reflect the contextual reality (past, present, and future) as well as institutional aspirations, constraints, and planned initiatives. Therefore, the enrollment goal setting process must be grounded in an understanding of the factors and conditions both internal and external to the school that impact student enrollment behaviors and institutional performance.