Welcome to the NAGAP Insights blog! I am excited to be the first contributor to this new resource for the GEM community. I wanted to share my thoughts on some of the current trends I see impacting GEM professionals, and share some of the data from the NAGAP-EAB research partnership that highlights these challenges. The partnership included a series of surveys, and the findings are published in a white paper titled, “The State of Graduate Enrollment Management." The white paper is available on the EAB website.
Trends in Graduate Enrollment
While some trends impacting our work in graduate enrollment management aren't necessarily new, they are exacerbated by the impending undergraduate enrollment "cliff" projected to begin in 2025. Here are a few that are particularly worthy of our attention.
Graduate enrollment has outpaced undergraduate enrollment over the last 10 years, but this may begin slowing. Universities often rely on graduate and professional programs to help increase enrollment and revenues, which has led to a proliferation of programs across the country. The impact of this is increased competition for students in graduate and professional programs, and in some cases, increased competition for those students to find employment following graduation. We also know that there is a shift in student demographics that will lead to a decrease in undergraduate enrollment. Graduate programs will have to continue or expand recruitment of non-traditional students to meet enrollment goals. Programs will also need to re-examine how the programs are delivered (ex. face-to-face, hybrid, 100% online) to meet student needs.
Because of increased competition, the pressure put on graduate program recruitment and admissions staff is high. NAGAP-EAB surveys found that fewer participants met their enrollment goals in 2021 (62%) compared with 2020 (67%). The top enrollment objectives in 2021 included more revenue/net tuition, greater ethnic/racial diversity of enrolled students, and higher enrollment in various academic programs. To meet these goals, graduate enrollment management professionals must refine and expand outreach to prospective students.
Inflation is at a 40-year high, and prospective students may be less inclined to enroll in a graduate program due to increases in tuition and a hot job market. Universities will need to demonstrate the value of graduate education to prospective students and partner with employers to identify gaps that can be addressed with new programs.
As pressures to increase enrollment and revenue mount, staff responsibilities also increase. It is becoming more difficult to recruit and hire new staff, and many professionals are leaving higher education altogether. Forty-six percent of NAGAP-EAB survey respondents were considering leaving their current position, and almost half of respondents reported high stress levels. Increased workload and understaffed departments were two factors causing the most stress.
Mental Health and Burnout
The pandemic has taken a toll on mental health worldwide. While the pandemic allowed flexible working arrangements for many professionals easing some stress, many universities are now returning to pre-pandemic work models. With the increase in stresses at home and at work, burnout has become a major issue in higher education, particularly for graduate enrollment staff.
How to Address Challenges in Enrollment Management
All of these trends impact each other, and NAGAP is working to provide opportunities for members to learn and engage with one another on how to address these challenges facing the entire enrollment management industry.
We offer many educational events including Early Career and Advance GEM Professional Development Institutes, webinars, and our annual conference, the NAGAP Summit. Our professional development offerings are designed to provide education across seven domains:
- Career, Staff, and Personal Development
- Enrollment Modeling and Strategic Planning
- GEM Operations
- Money Matters
- Recruitment and Marketing
- Student Lifecycle, Engagement, and Support
- Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Our mentorship program for new and experienced professionals provides opportunities for NAGAP members to develop deeper relationships with colleagues, share best practices, and increase engagement with NAGAP and the GEM profession. More details and the applications to be a mentor or mentee are available on the NAGAP Mentor Program website.
NAGAP’s online networking platform, The Exchange, is one member benefit that facilitates conversations across a wide variety of graduate enrollment management topics. Recent discussion threads in The Exchange include best practices for email communications, start times for virtual information sessions, admissions policy discussions, and more.
Diversity and Inclusion
Earlier this year, NAGAP implemented the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Certificate Program, which included the Pre-Summit Institute on Inclusive Marketing and Recruitment and four webinars. Other topics discussed include implicit bias and cultivating a welcoming and affirming space for students of color. NAGAP is committed to diversity and inclusion in its membership, the profession, and all activities.
NAGAP has 11 chapters designed to help members network within their geographic region as well as with institutions in specific disciplines or affiliations. Over the next year, we will be implementing NAGAP communities, which will allow members to connect around shared interests (ex. technology groups, affinity groups).
NAGAP and its research partners provide the graduate enrollment community with research around GEM salary data, marketing and recruitment, enrollment trends, and more.
If you are a NAGAP member, I hope that you are able to take advantage of all of the opportunities available to you, and if you are not a member, I hope that you consider joining us.
Interested in getting access to all of the above benefits of joining the NAGAP membership community? Find out more here!
About Kristen Sterba
Kristen Sterba is the President of NAGAP and the Associate Provost for Students and Administration at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.