Resource Library

Enrollment

By: MG Jerry Grizzle

When I arrived at NMMI in July 2009, the school was in the tenth consecutive year of declining enrollment. When I started to research the issue the first thing I found was that everyone believed enrollment was the total responsibility of Admissions and that no one had any involvement. My first experience at matriculation was a disaster. We had no idea how many total students would show up, we had no idea how many returning students would show, etc. As we started to address the issue we first had to create an environment where everyone was a recruiter and a retainer. We had to talk the benefits of attending NMMI to prospective student and talk the benefit of staying and returning to existing students.The next step was to separate the thought of recruiting into two distinct pieces, recruiting; the act of attracting new students to enroll at NMMI versus retention; the act of causing our existing students to return. When I studied the ten years of decline I saw a clear pattern. We were consistent in bringing in approximately 500 to 520 new Cadets each fall. Where we were significantly lacking was in convincing our existing Cadets to return. They would stay the entire year at NMMI but then not return for the following year.My first year at NMMI we began with 833 Cadets, returning cadets totaled 330 and new Cadets totaled 503. We have 968 beds so we were 135 Cadets short or only 86% of capacity. We began to work on a recruiting strategy that embraced the internet as well as physical in the field recruiting. We used the internet to tell us where to go. The hits we received from a given market area determined if the market was worth going there and hosting a recruiting event.At the end of my first year I conducted focus groups with a diverse cross section of Cadets. One of the questions I asked each group was what made a difference in their decision to return to NMMI. The answer was simple, yet shocking. There were two answers to my question. The first was simply that no one had asked them to return. No one simply said we would like you to return to NMMI. The second answer was equally disturbing, no one ever said thank you for making the decision to come to NMMI in the first place.Thanks to a suggestion from my wife, we started hosting old fashioned ice cream socials by class. We told them thank you for coming to NMMI. We told them we wanted them to return. We shared the benefits of reenrolling early, member of Cadre, room selection, etc. The Academic Dean got involved and created the top 10 list of why you should return to NMMI. The Cadets responded and from their responses we have been able to address each of their positive suggestions about why you should return to NMMI. In summary I would just say that overall enrollment has to be everybody’s business. There is a distinction between recruiting and retention and you need to develop a strategy for both. Our average enrollment for the last four years has been 946 with an average of 540 new Cadets each year and 406 returning Cadets.