The Role Student Aid Plays in Enrollment Management

The Role Student Aid Plays in Enrollment Management

The Role Student Aid Plays in Enrollment Management

The Role Student Aid Plays in Enrollment Management


Student financial aid has always been burdened by a complex interplay of institutional needs and public policy goals. But in the past decade, that interplay has been complicated by rising college costs, increased consumerism, and the use of financial aid to meet both student needs and campus enrollment goals. This volume helps to explain the often conflicting relationship between student aid and enrollment management-and helps administrators sort out the factors most critical to effective student aid and enrollment policies. The chapters examine the political and cultural context that influences decisions about student aid and enrollment management, the special enrollment management challenges facing independent colleges, and some alternative methods for financing a college education. The authors also provide an extensive review of the research on the impact of student aid on recruitment and retention, offer recommendations for ethical enrollment planning, and furnish a valuable list of resources for enrollment planners, researchers, and policymakers. This is the 89th issue of the quarterly journal New Directions for Student Services.


Michael D. Coomes

This chapter examines the historical development of
enrollment management. It focuses on the roles that fed
eral student aid legislation, changing student demograph
ics, and research on college impact have played in
shaping enrollment management as a concept

Since the early 1970s, enrollment management has become an increasingly important function for colleges. That function grew out of the traditional gatekeeper role of the admissions officer (Hossler, 1996), and in recent years has been linked with student aid in an effort to attract students and retain them in college. Governmental policymakers, college administrators, students, and their families all recognize that student aid plays an important role in assisting both students and institutions in meeting their enrollment goals. In this chapter, I will provide a context for understanding the emergence of enrollment management on campus. My primary focus will be on the confluence of three late-twentieth-century events: the emergence of generally available student aid resources (primarily through federally funded programs), the development of an extensive college impact literature, and changes in the organizational structures of universities.

Pre-Twentieth-Century Conditions

As is the case with much of postsecondary education, it all began with Harvard College. Seven years after its founding, Lady Ann Radcliff Mowlson bequeathed to the college £100 for the “yea[rly] maintenance of some poor scholler” (Godzicki, 1975, p. 15). This single scholarship embodied many of the characteristics (for example, philanthropic support, aid to the needy) of and set the pattern for student aid programs of the future. Similarly, what was eventually to become the admissions function on college campuses can trace its roots to the Statutes of Harvard College (circa 1646). The first law of Harvard College dealt explicitly with admissions: “When any Scholar is . . .

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