Recently, FundFive listed ways to create basic spreadsheets to help lay out your institution's income structure in a way to help organize thoughts related to increasing revenue over expenses. We continue the conversation on the same topic, but by looking at it from a different perspective: How to increase the topline.
Increasing the topline means increasing your student headcount without increasing your discount rate. Furthermore, if you really want the truth, it also includes not diminishing your institution’s competitiveness, which usually translates into Freshman average SAT/ACT scores. Administration knows that not only is this very difficult to do, but ultimately that it is the aim of almost every admissions office around the country: find the magical recipe for increasing the topline. Speaking from experience, we've been part of building such a recipe, and it is called “unity."
The admissions office is not responsible for losing the enrollment of a student who can’t understand a list of requirements. Likewise, the admissions office is not responsible for losing a student on the first day of class because the residence hall is dirty, or if the student can’t make a payment, or if the student simply got cold feet. All of those things happen because institutions of higher education have a hard time working as a unit. For example, if the counseling office succeeds in diminishing student wait time for services, it will consider that accomplishment to be significant. Our question is, "What is the impact on the functions of the registrar’s office? Huge? Or none?" The answers to that question, most of the time, is that the registrar’s office is not connected to that issue. However, if a student has a great experience in the counseling office and a poor experience at the registrar’s office, s/he will judge your institution by its lowest quality of service. After all, that is what we naturally do as consumers if and when we have an unpleasant experience at a local business or restaurant.
The answer to this issue is not to find out how to resolve the transactional issues between all offices, but to have a general conversation about how to improve institutional services, in tandem, as part of a mass initiative across campus. Most institutions offer superior instruction in the classroom, and students are being educated by some of the brightest minds in our society. However, the differentiation between institutions will not necessarily always come from the caliber of their faculty or the quality of the education that students receive, but rather from how your students feel about how your institution treats them every day. Their experiences translate into retention, and ultimately, an increase in headcount.
At High Point University we were part of a team of men and women who decided to create a culture of unity and to improve university services as a whole. The result was explosive growth with diminishing discount rates and increasing average SAT/ACT scores. We've worked in an environment in which we could deliver a student from our operation to another with absolute confidence they would get first class service, and we knew other services expected the same from our team.
If you are looking for a strategy that really pays off, make it a priority to focus on cultural change and institutional unity. Starting in September 2017, FundFive will release a series of articles with specific building blocks for the creation of unity through culture change.