I am writing to follow up on two important items that I have been working on this
semester. First, I want to invite you to join me for a Budget 101 discussion. Second,
I have an update on our enrollment management work.
As part of our ongoing effort to engage campus on the budget, Chief Financial Officer Michelle Quinn and I will host a series of 90-minute Budget 101 sessions. Michelle will give an overview of UNC budget trends and how we arrived at a $10-million structural deficit. Then she and I will take questions and invite discussion. The sessions are open to everyone on campus, and the same information will be presented each time.
Here is the schedule:
- Wednesday, Nov. 14, 10-11:30 a.m., UC Ballrooms
- Thursday, Nov. 15, 3:30-5 p.m., UC Panorama Room
- Monday, Nov. 26, 1-2:30 p.m., UC Columbine B
- Tuesday, Nov. 27, 8:30-10 a.m., UC Panorama Room.
For those unable to make the meetings, they will have access to this information online.
In the spirit of transparent communication, I also want to share with you what we are doing with strategic enrollment management. As you know, the higher education environment becomes more competitive each year. Like many universities, UNC has responded in part with a complex discounting model. In late 2015, we began working with an outside consultant, Ruffalo Noel Levitz (RNL), with expertise in student financial aid to develop a model for awarding institutional aid. While undergraduate enrollment increased by 4 percent since 2014, net tuition revenue (revenue after institutional discounting is applied) has been going down as we have awarded more need- and merit-based aid to students. This is a significant challenge as we work to address our structural deficit.
The evolving higher education landscape and fierce competition in this space require us to take a more sophisticated enrollment management approach than even a few years ago. It is no longer enough to focus primarily on pricing and discounting. Enrollment management now needs to address the entire student life cycle, from the first moment we engage with a student to graduation.
To help us with this work, which will include efforts to increase retention and graduation rates, we have decided to partner with Huron Consulting Group. The company is a leader in working with colleges and universities on enrollment management planning that leads to positive results. They will guide us in assessing our current market position and recruiting practices, researching price elasticity of the students we attract, establishing a sustainable discount rate for new and continuing students, and setting aggressive and attainable enrollment goals. This work will also link recruitment efforts with student success outcomes to improve retention and graduation rates. Huron will provide us with the tools to build, implement and manage our own strategic enrollment management model to bolster our ability to enroll and retain students.
As I shared at last week’s Board Finance and Audit Committee meeting, this will require a significant investment of time and resources. The contract with Huron is about $335,000, and I am confident that this will increase our bandwidth to implement strategies and tactics that wouldn’t be possible without outside assistance. This will supplant our discounting work with RNL, for which we paid about $75,000 annually. The colleges and universities that have worked with Huron report results that were worth their investment. At UNC, just a slight increase in enrollment or housing occupancy would yield a significant return on our investment.
To be successful, though, we will need to commit to implementation as a result of the ensuing work, and we must start this work immediately if we want to make an impact on next fall’s class. Campus involvement will be crucial during the 14-week process that will start at month’s end. A steering committee is being formed, and there will be opportunities for students, faculty and staff to participate in the process, including focus groups to provide feedback.
The work we will do with Huron fits well with the efforts of the President’s Leadership Council, the Provost’s three task forces, and the Budget 101 series, and such collaboration will help us get on the path to sustainability.
Please watch for UNC Today updates on this strategic enrollment management initiative in the coming weeks.
Rowing, Not Drifting,
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