Academic journal article College and University

Building a Sem Organization

Academic journal article College and University

Building a Sem Organization

Article excerpt

The Internal Consultant Approach

This article was a preconference paper for the 2007 AACRAO Strategic Enrollment Management Conference.

There is little doubt about it: Colleges and universities are reluctant to change. They are large and diffuse orga- nizations with few clear lines of control. Yet the external environment in which colleges and universities operate is changing quickly. The u.s. higher education commu- nity is experiencing the most dramatic shifts in student demographics since the post -World War n era ("wiche 2003). States and other organizations are conducting new external evaluations to justify lower amounts of public fiscal support. Public expectations for a wide variety of high-quality student services are rapidly increasing. These changes make it essential for institutions to implement at least some aspects of strategic enrollment management (SEM) in order to develop greater institution- wide understanding of how to best respond to emerging student trends, needs, and markets. As a growing number of institutions encounter this reality, many find themselves grappling with a fundamental question: What is an effective, sustainable approach to implementing sem that is likely to be embraced by the entire campus ?

The complexity of the current environment as well as most administrative structures has fostered an expectation that environmental scans, assessment of strategic needs, development of marketing plans, and other core planning activities are often best accomplished by outside professionals and consultants. Over the past two decades, many institutional leaders have come to highly value the professional sem consulting field. Demand for help in responding to changing markets and in revising institutional expectations has driven the rapid growth of the support industry. A June 2007 compilation of higher education consultants listed approximately 200 consultants with focuses in 50 different categories (University Business 2007); more than 130 firms were noted for their abilities to assist universities with implementing sem in terms of change management, marketing, diversity, financial aid, distance education, student market research, strategy, planning and/or communications. Why must institutions look externally for assistance with these critical institutional needs?

This white paper presents a performance concept ofthe "in-house consultant" model (IHC) as a means to better position the chief enrollment officer and sem units as a campus-wide support team focused on helping most campus units achieve and sustain core institutional strategic initiatives. Fundamentally embracing the IHC conceptual metaphor would address the mind and skill sets required by enrollment management professionals to help their institutions operate in a more efficient and proactive manner.


The scope of an external consultant's stature has significantly expanded in our era of high-tech, enterprise-planning workplaces. These temporary, expert employees are expected to provide a client with objective advice and assistance relating to the strategy, structure, management and operations of an organization in pursuit of its long-term purposes and objectives. Such assistance may include the identification of options with recommendations, the provision of an additional resource, and/or the implementation of solutions (Institute of Management Consultancy 2002).

Whereas an institution may find it exhilarating to utilize the resources and knowledge of a field expert, it also may feel frustrated by the loss of energy and competence when a consultant concludes his/her project. Many people are familiar with the scenario: a problem is identified; a consultant is hired; a plan is written; and then the institution is left to develop the structure to implement and sustain the new plan.

This is not to argue that external consultants are either superfluous or ineffective at addressing detailed problems. …

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