North American Approaches to Strategic Enrollment Management

The subtlety of American-Canadian comparison is suggested in a scene from the 2005 movie, "Syriana."  An American CIA officer steps into an elevator occupied by a Middle Eastern royal prince who asks, “American?” Without hesitation, the CIA agent responds, “Canadian."

 The prince reflexively presumes the Westerner to be an American and the statistical odds are the prince would be correct.  The American seeks to disarm the questioner by declaring himself a Canadian and therefore someone - if not dramatically different from an American - at least different enough to give the prince pause.  And the prince is knowledgeable and sophisticated and understands the nuances.

Among the several changes underway at many North American universities is the increased recognition that enrollment management must become more strategic in orientation and will entail more deliberate planning and administration than has been the case or has been recognized as necessary by institutions in both the US and Canada.  Long the province of private, tuition-dependent American colleges and universities, strategic enrollment management (SEM) has put down roots in Canada and shows signs of expanding to highly-selective, public research universities in both countries.

As SEM grows in importance, institutions will seek out leadership to implement or expand SEM activities.  Some will look beyond the home campus and attempt to recruit professionals from elsewhere.  As they search, they may find talent from across the US-Canadian border that fits the particular culture of their institution and reflects and even embraces the interesting similarities and differences between the two nations’ higher education systems.

This study reports observations gleaned from an examination of the similarities and differences between American and Canadian universities with respect to SEM and the implications of those divergences and convergences for identifying and recruiting leadership for SEM efforts in both countries.  Findings suggest that America’s public research universities might do well to look to Canadian SEM practitioners for leadership, while Canada’s second-tier universities might benefit from the expertise of American SEM leaders.  Both countries’ higher education systems would do well to engage one another in on-going discussion and exchange.

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