#Highered Enrollment: Your Charts May Be Lying to You

The enrollment report is in your inbox, your college is right in the middle of enrollment for the Fall semester. There’s a moment of dread, a moment of excitement and you aren’t sure if you really want to look, but you know you have to. The charts look ok, down, but not by much.graph-what

Question: Down compared to _________? The numbers for the previous year’s Fall semester? Was the previous Fall semester miserably down? If your enrollment is higher than the previous Fall semester, does that mean that you’re actually doing well?

Warning, this is my own idea of actually measuring enrollment to determine if the charts you see give you a real idea of how things are actually going. It certainly doesn’t mean there aren’t better ways, it just seems to make a bit more sense to me.

What if you look at big picture numbers; instead of measuring enrollment to a previous year, would it make more sense to look at the numbers for the last 5 years? What was the highest enrollment achieved? What is average enrollment over these years? If you compare the current enrollment numbers to these 2 numbers, how do they look? Are you still doing well?

In my opinion, 3 charts & numbers are better than 1. Current vs the previous year, current vs your highest, and current vs your average. This can work for specific programs as well. If you had 500 students enrolled in a program the previous year & you have 600 so far for the upcoming semester, it seems you’re improving, but what if the 5 year average enrollment for that program is 1000 and the highest you’ve achieved is 1500? *completely made up hypothetical numbers here.

I’ll be the first to admit that this isn’t perfect & that every year has it’s own set of factors, that’s why I compare to an average. I’d rather aim higher than lower! I am also no enrollment or recruiting specialist, so please, if you have a different way of comparison for success, leave a comment.