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What Was the Thinking That Created the Problems in Enrollment Management?

What Was the Thinking That Created the Problems in Enrollment Management?

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” — Albert Einstein

Thom Golden used those words attributed to Albert Einstein to jumpstart a special live session of The Weightlist Podcast recorded last month at the Resolve Enrollment Technology Conference, Capture Higher Ed’s first-ever user conference.



Golden, Capture’s senior vice president of data science, turned to his Weightlist co-host Brad Weiner, Capture’s director of data science, and asked, “What is the thinking we used to create the problems we have in higher ed and, more specifically, enrollment management?”

Brad’s response: too much competition, not enough collaboration.

While acknowledging that colleges and universities are in a competitive market place, he would like to see a move away from what he calls an arms race — or a spending race — that ends with “an ultimate zero-sum game of, if you’re enrolling a student, someone else isn’t enrolling a student,” he says.

“Because, at least based on the data I have, there should be enough to go around, as long as we are willing to make a few exceptions, as long as we are willing to buck some the trends in terms of competing on prestige, or competing on cost.”

Enrollment Problems

Thom says such competition, which often presents itself as a spending race, is the product of continued linear thinking in a time of exponential thinking. Exponential thinking, or exponentialism, is the idea that a smaller amount of work can have exponential results — an idea that fuels current technologies.

The linear thinking that has created so many problems for enrollment managers, according to Thom, came out of the political arena — that if you wanted to saturate a primary market, you tried to acquire as many names as you could, you canvassed, and then you bombarded them with information.

“If I just get enough people to hear about this concept or this idea, it’ll trickle down to the behavior I want,” Thom explains.

How does this look in an enrollment shop?

“If you want to visit more states, you have to hire more staff, or figure out some other way to do that. To communicate with more people, you have to buy more names and send more things. This leads to this arms race: Are you willing to outspend your opponent?”

New technologies are not based on that, he says. They’re based on exponential thinking. An example would be using digital dynamic content to steer prospective students to complete their applications instead of a phone campaign.

Problems Enrollment Management

“Once the digital campaign is set up, it runs. Right?” Thoms says. “It just goes. So you now have done a little bit of incremental work that will continue to get more and more people.”

He says it is time for enrollment managers to start looking at solutions through the lens of: Are they offering a linear solution? Are they offering exponential solution?

“Chances are they are talking about the same stuff they’ve been talking about for 20 or 30 years,” Thom says. “That’s what got us into this. We can’t buy our way out.”

Fueled by curiosity, data technology and craft beer, The Weightlist Podcast is a must-listen resource for the modern enrollment manager. In the video above, you can watch Thom and Brad in the opening 12 minutes of Weightlist LIVE at Resolve. In this section, they also field a question from a conference attendee about the prospect of AI replacing enrollment management professionals.

By Kevin Hyde, Senior Content Writer, Capture Higher Ed