The Changing Profession of Admissions: From Counselling to Selling?

Sep 24, 2011

Admissions profession is undergoing a rapid transformation in its character, purpose and approaches. A recent report by insidehighered found "Clashes of Money and Values" driven by increasing pressure to look for sources of revenue. This is resulting in importance of full-fee paying, out-of-state and international students (Of course, this shift is more pronounced in public institutions as they are directly affected by state budget cuts.)

Another interesting dimension of the report relates to increasing use of agents for recruitment (one-third of the respondents are considering using agents but do not do so now, according to the report). This supports my assertion that there will be increase in interest for using agents, however it is a risky proposition due to incentive models which promote compromises to integrity of admissions process including document frauds (here is my earlier post). This concern of document frauds is also validated in the survey where nearly half of respondents (47 percent) agreed that agents "often play a direct role in helping international applicants fabricate information."

Admissions at many institutions is shifting from its purpose of finding best fit for the student to finding student with highest revenue potential. This transformation already took place earlier with for-profit institutions. Last month, The Department of Justice sued Education Management which received $2.2 billion of federal financial aid in fiscal 2010. "The complaint said the company had a 'boiler-room style sales culture' in which recruiters were instructed to use high-pressure sales techniques and inflated claims about career placement to increase student enrollment, regardless of applicants’ qualifications."

Another shift in the admissions profession relates to the role of efficiency, predictability and transparency. This is driven by use of data and forecasting for enrollment management. Eric Hoover highlights the change in the role of admissions dean when "he was more of a sage than a salesman...His college's bottom line was someone else's concern; he was paid to counsel students, not to crunch numbers." He adds "A profession that once relied on anecdotes and descriptive data now runs on complex statistical analyses and market research. Knowing how to decipher enrollment outcomes is a given; knowing how to forecast the future is a must." (Here is my quote on use of research and data in admissions in NAFSA International Educator and in the Chronicle)

Given the changing competitive and financial landscape, profession of admissions has to adapt and evolve. While shift towards performance improvement, transparency and efficiency is a welcome direction, compromises to the integrity of the profession is not.

Thoughts/comments?

Dr. Rahul Choudaha

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