February 14, 2024

Forecasting enrollment growth: A five-course recipe for success

Call it the magic wand. The golden goose, holy grail, or silver bullet. Every higher education leader dreams of an instrument that can accurately predict their future enrollment, but in a market that is getting more challenging all the time, is it really feasible that such an instrument exists?

At Anthology, we have a long history of driving enrollment growth for institutions of all types and sizes. Take Marshall University, for example, who partnered with our Enrollment Management team to drive a 13.2% uplift in freshman enrollment.

Our experience tells us that forecasting enrollment growth is less magic wand and more Colonel’s secret herbs and spices. There are five key factors—ingredients, if you’ll allow me to force the metaphor—that impact enrollment results for all institutions and programs, which when considered together combine to form a recipe for success.

1. Base Demand

With students eager to align their studies directly with career opportunities, an important first step to understand enrollment potential is to look at the size of the industry which the graduate plans to enter. Put simply: how many jobs exist related to the field of study?

Institutions should analyze statistics on the local job market and the number of relevant employers in their region to estimate the scale of opportunity. Naturally, having a high base demand—or a large pool of potential employment—lends itself to high enrollment potential.

2. Industry Demand

Take it a step further and look at the latest trends for employment in these areas. An industry may be large but static, with major employers not currently in the market for graduates, in which case the industry demand is low.

Check out job websites to understand the volume of opportunity in real time. If there are many open roles, and the credential you’re offering will position the student well to apply for them, then you can be confident your program has a high level of industry demand.

3. Accessibility and Flexibility

How easy is it for students to access your program? Key factors to consider when answering this question include the price, online availability, and part-time options. These align with modern student needs, and if your offering is flexible and affordable, your enrollment potential will grow as a result.

4. Marketing and Awareness

As mentioned above, as higher education grows more competitive every day it becomes increasingly challenging to differentiate your offering and stand out from the crowd. Our recent whitepaper, Strategic Enrollment Management in the Post-Pandemic Era, provides a helpful guide to assess the competition, set your institution apart, and deliver a great marketing plan as a result.

For the purposes of forecasting enrollment, you need to honestly assess where you sit in the market currently. How does your marketing spend compare with competitors, and are you promoting unique programs that have the potential to get traction?

5. Reputation

Further to marketing investment, reputation is our final key ingredient for high enrollment potential. In a crowded market, students look for brands they recognize, so it’s important to assess how reputable your institution is among your target audience—both holistically, and then specifically in the area of study. As stands to reason, credentials which align with your current areas of strength will have more short-term enrollment potential, whereas newer programs will take higher investment levels to get off the ground.

Now that you have the five key herbs and spices ready, it’s time to step into the kitchen! We (Anthology/The Colonel) work in partnership with institutions to interrogate each of these factors, and have a developed a recipe to estimate the enrollment potential for each of your programs. Our “chefs” would be delighted to meet and take you through it.

Looking for an a-la-carte enrollment provider that tailors their offering to your taste? Contact us today to learn more about Anthology’s flexible enrollment solutions.

Picture of Kara Eldersveld smiling

Kara Eldersveld

Strategic Consulting Director, Online Program Experience

Kara Eldersveld specializes in developing transparent, mutually beneficial partnerships with colleges and universities that focus on prioritized growth opportunities. Every institution has a unique recipe for growth, and Eldersveld has a proven track record of assembling complex and strategic solutions that leverage expertise across academic program strategy, marketing, enrollment, and course design/development. Prior to Anthology, Eldersveld was the director of marketing and enrollment strategy at Rice University.

Ben Burrett headshot

Ben Burrett

Senior Product Marketing Manager

Ben has more than a decade of marketing and advertising experience spanning Australia, Europe, North America, and Latin America. Based in Bogotá, Colombia, Ben is passionate about the role of technology in advancing education and works closely with Anthology’s product management team and subject matter experts to support the positioning and promotion of our Student Success services and Blackboard Learn.