Looking Back, Looking Forward

Last month Lawlor Advisory fielded a client survey on the 2019-20 recruitment cycle to capture top-of-mind highlights and challenges. Respondents noted the many positive personal traits that came to the fore as staff dealt with the need to be flexible, pivot, and adjust: traits like collaboration, care and concern, resilience, creativity, responsiveness, and the willingness to pitch in. It was also a time for reaffirmation of mission, recommitment to racial justice, and human connections.

Meanwhile, what brought about the most consternation and anguish were concerns like the inability of prospective students to visit campus, ACT/SAT testing problems, restrictions on international students, uncertainty around athletics, and technology snafus. Respondents also recognized that fading staff morale due to stress, exhaustion, and the institution’s financial hardships took a toll. Overall the words that best described the 2019-20 recruitment cycle were:

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Our survey also looked forward, gathering everyone’s wishes for the coming year. For example, as one respondent put it, “I hope the innovation, tenacity, and perseverance of the past year is deeply rooted in our DNA as we move forward.” To facilitate their institutions’ continuous improvement, respondents hoped to explore more ways to generate leads (as standardized testing declines), do virtual programming well, engage students and parents meaningfully, and strengthen the institution’s value proposition.

We also recently interviewed NACAC’s new president, Todd Rinehart, who is the vice chancellor for enrollment at the University of Denver, and asked him for his thoughts and reflections. He noted, “Many of the highlights and challenges of this past year have now become our new normal, and aren’t showing signs of changing anytime soon. Most admission professionals thought we were going to work remotely to flatten the curve for a few weeks last spring, and that summer and fall would bring a return to business as usual. Our reality now is that we are running a series of marathons with little or no rest in-between races. I’m inspired by the creativity, flexibility, and resilience of our profession—we are finding new and different ways to serve students, meet key goals, address inequities and barriers, and finding ways to ensure our personal health and well-being. Our profession will emerge better and stronger in the future, providing an even greater commitment to fulfilling our respective missions, visions, and goals.”

No surprise, campus cultures that discuss, discern, and do things in an authentic edupreneurial spirit will definitely help foster success, now and in the future.


Incoming 2021 Class Survey

60% of rising seniors indicated an in-person campus visit experience is critical to them despite the pandemic. (Source: CollegeXpress)

Outgoing 2019 Class Debt

Students graduating prior to the pandemic had a lower average debt amount, and a lower percentage had debt. (Source: TICAS)

Enrollment Decline Worsens

First-time enrollment is running 16.1% percent below last year’s level, and is down 4.0% for undergraduates. (Source: NSC Research Center)