Perceptions of strategic enrollment management in schools of public health
Robinson, Kara Brown
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This research examined the practice of strategic enrollment management in schools of public health (SPH) through an administrative orientation with a focus on admission and financial processes. While strategic enrollment management (SEM) has been studied at great length at the undergraduate level, much less attention has been paid to SEM in professional schools. A qualitative research study of SEM was undertaken to examine the prevalence of SEM plans, concepts adopted, organizational structure and perceived barriers to implementation. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with admissions representatives from 27 SPH. The study yielded several conclusions that are important to university administrators. First, SEM is conceptualized through informal frameworks in SPH rather than through formal strategic enrollment management plans. Second, SPH organizational structures are centralized in terms of admissions and recruitment processes and decentralized in terms of decision-making authority and yield-to-matriculation efforts. Furthermore, admissions representatives in SPH see collaboration as essential for meeting matriculation targets. Finally, polarities exist regarding the impact of tuition and financial aid structures on enrollment management in SPH. SEM is complex, and there are contradictions between its aspirations and the day-to-day realities –exemplified through schools’ commitment to diversity, an educated and representative public health workforce and a collaborative approach to strategic enrollment management within the context of a competitive and expanding market. Inevitably, there were limitations to the analysis. Admission representatives from only 27 of the 51 Council on Education and Public Health (CEPH) accredited schools in the U.S. were interviewed, and other personnel from schools of public health – such as deans and faculty – were not interviewed. In addition, the study’s use of telephone interviews may have constrained data-gathering due to the impersonal nature of the interaction. Nevertheless, master’s degree programs are growing dramatically across disciplines, and future research is warranted to further examine graduate enrollment management models. Ideally, results from this study will inform SPH as they engage in conversations and undertake decisions regarding strategic enrollment management and pursue areas for prospective collaboration within their schools and institutions.