A man in front of a desktop with a College Enrollment form pulled up

What can colleges learn from chief enrollment officers?

Chief enrollment officers shoulder much responsibility but feel optimistic about their roles

In a recent survey from Witt/Kieffer, chief enrollment officers share their thoughts on the intensifying pressure they face from college presidents, provosts, colleagues, and departments such as student affairs and marketing.

The survey found that 83 percent of the 137 chief enrollment officers surveyed say they are optimistic about the future of the enrollment profession, and 64 percent say they plan to stay in the enrollment field.

Chief enrollment officers’ main goal is to find the best match and right number of students for their specific institution, but this task is complicated by a shrinking student pool, the need to please a wide range of stakeholders, the relative newness of the profession, and the wide range of skills needed to satisfy the growing challenges accompanying the profession.

Related: Here are a few proven ways, some involving edtech, to boost enrollment & retention

“It’s a profession in which the expectations are continuing to increase, and the pressures are especially high given national demographic challenges and the relationship between tuition revenue and institutions’ budgets,” says Amy Crutchfield, principal and deputy director of education for Witt/Kieffer. “What that means is that so many institutions are looking for the same things–everyone is trying to increase the number of students at their institutions, and at the same time the number of available students keeps declining. The role becomes increasingly important for institutions.”

Here’s what some of the surveyed chief enrollment officers said about their profession:

Enrollment leadership in flux

1. “I love the field but it is exhausting and all-consuming.”

2. “High expectations, heavy work load, high stress … I’m worried about the next generation of enrollment management leaders.”

3. “The enrollment profession has never been more important to the sustainability of higher education.”

Optimistic, yet cautious

4. “It’s a great position if you want to be at the intersection of institutional strategic planning and tactical execution, but it requires nerves of steel!”

5. “It will become even more challenging, but for strong professionals who care about students and the power of education, it will continue to be a rewarding profession.”

Managing expectations

6. “We need to balance the various demands of numbers, quality, quantity, and revenue from our presidents, provosts, and CFOs. It’s hard to dance well with all three people at the same time.”

7. “This is not for the faint of heart, but every tuition-driven institution is facing the same expectations. The trick is to balance them all.”

Related: Here’s how to boost enrollment with chatbots

8. “My institution understands the challenging environment in which we operate, and it is my responsibility to educate leadership about those challenges.”

9. “The expectations are unreasonable, but I engage the provost, president, CFO, deans, and others for understanding and support. We can’t carry the load on our own.”

Staying in the field

10. “I could no longer find opportunities at institutions where I could personally ‘buy into’ the mission, advocate with genuine enthusiasm, and deliver on expectations of the president and board.”

11. “This is an incredibly high-pressure role and I frequently feel under-supported … this sense of isolation coupled with pressure can lead to burnout.”

12. “In an era of declining high school graduation rates and increased demand upon full-time employees, the chief enrollment officer will be in a no-win situation.”

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Laura Ascione

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