The Completely unofficial entirely opinion-based update on enrollment trends

A comment on my last post asked what impact on enrollment the economy is having according to what I’ve been hearing from my colleagues. I’ve done a very careful, detailed study consisting of chatting with a few friends, reading comments on a few list servs, and attending meetings where the topic came up and I managed to stay awake for (most of) the discussion.

Based on this wealth of information, I can tell you that we have virtually no idea what our classes are really going to look like this fall. It’s true that many public institutions saw yield in out-of-state students dip, but I’ve spoken with several where these numbers are way up. There’s a lot of discussion about private schools taking a loss, but I’m also hearing that many schools, publics for out-of-state and privates for everyone, decided to make large discount investments to substantial portions of their admitted students in order to hold on to their student profile/mix.

There’s at least one study (and this appears to be an actual study, not this kind of lame opinion slinging) that adds even more confusion to the mix. It claims that the number of students that submitted deposits to multiple institutions is up dramatically, possibly more than double. If true, then even the numbers the schools are currently discussing are way off – another reason we really won’t know the full enrollment picture until this fall.

In case you’re wondering, Mason’s numbers are VERY strong, well over target and a big jump in profile, based on deposits. Like my colleagues, however, I’ll be holding my breath all summer to see what happens. Be seeing you.


Marketing excitment and enrollment confusion

I was a few miles south of campus last week meeting with Deans, directors, and vice presidents of admissions of Virginia public colleges. The group assembles a few times each year to compare notes, work on projects of mutual interest, and share our woes. Most of what we shared last week was confusion. On one hand, there’s a series of studies out that say far more students than ever before have deposited at multiple institutions. On the other hand, many schools continue to go deeply to their waitlists, and we hear rumors of some of the wealthier schools that still need students stalking their admits with increased financial aid offers (I’d call that poaching, but I suspect the students that get the money have few complaints).

A few days later, I flew out to San Francisco to speak at the Ypulse conference. Ypulse gathers together a slew of people that try to market to teens and tweens. I spoke a bit on a handful of Mason’s recent successes, this blog among them, at attracting students. This was slightly surreal for me…most of the time I’m the marketing (a.k.a. source of all evil) guy in an organization of academics, but at Ypulse, I’m the academic guy in a massive group of marketing gurus. Interesting to hear that MTV, Disney, and other big brand name organizations get every bit as frustrated trying to get students to do things as I do. On the other hand, a number of the presentations confirmed what I’ve suspected – it’s more about the personal contacts and connections that we make than any marketing gimmick.

I met with several fascinating bloggers – when I have a spare second to check out their work I’ll post some links and comments. Shameless Plug – I also heard from the amazing Don Tapscott and am greatly looking forward to his new book, Grown Up Digital. Although I haven’t read it yet, I think you should buy it, mostly because I’ve been a huge admirer since reading his earlier book and got to hang out with him – the guy saw an open piano in the lobby of the hotel and kept a group of us singing into the wee hours. That’s my kind of author!! All right – back to more admissions information. Be seeing you.