Melinda Roy

This is the final post in the Introduction to SEM Frameworks series. We previously discussed why this matters, reviewed decision-making in each type, the challenges, and indicators of resiliency of each.

A seasoned soapbox derby car team is likely to modify their original design, introduce new features, or focus on a new goal. They may begin introducing new features on top of their established vehicle. Aside from assessing the weight-bearing capacity of the framework, introducing a new process or task for SEM differs between the four frameworks. In this post we’ll review how institutions who want to implement enrolment targets would do so in each of the frameworks.

In an explicit Committee Framework, enrollment targets are likely set at the program level, possibly as part of the Program Review process.

The role of the Committee is to review the evidence and proposed target put forward by its members, and to advise each other on their methodology for producing those targets.

In an implicit Committee Framework, academic units understand and account for student behaviour beyond their area; they understand how students migrate between programs, how course enrollment and tuition-income is assigned or shared across programs, and build collaborative targets, share responsibility and accountability.

In an implicit or explicit Committee Framework, enrollment targets are likely approved at an Academic Council, as new programs are developed and then reviewed on a cycle. Admission, credential, and retention targets and history (whether rates or FTE) are part of how enrolment targets are set and understood. They are rooted in both administrative and operational data, advise, and expertise. Often institutional targets are an aggregation of this data.

In a mature Committee Framework, targets are based on capacity, and assessing the achievement of targets enables enrollment forecasting.

Enrolment forecasts are likely produced from those data points by Institutional Research, who provide various scenarios to the Committee for review. The Committee may then select a few scenarios to highlight to leadership, and use these scenarios to request adjusted targets, develop new SEM interventions, explain unachieved targets in program review, or request additional funding to support enrolment increases or decreases the projections may show that the institution hasn’t yet considered.

Similarly, enrolment targets in the Coordinator framework are set at the program level, likely as part of Program Review.

They may be set by the Deans in consultation with or under guidance of a committee (if this is an explicit version of the Coordinator framework). The committee reviews targets, the Coordinator guides them towards aligning with the SEM plan, and the institutional and program-level plan is presented to academic council by the Coordinator. Because the operational and administrative side has already been consulted in developing the program level targets and performance metrics, once the Academic Council approves them, they are adopted by the institution.

For both Coordinator and Committee frameworks, when program review does not yet include enrolment targets, they may be initiated by the Committee at the direction of the Academic Council or Executive leadership.

In the Matrix framework, the process of target setting is as under the Committee or Coordinator framework, but targets are submitted to the Matrix lead for approval.

Discussions about the validity and achievability of targets exists between the Matrix lead and upper leadership, as well as between the Matrix lead and their peers. Targets here may begin to be developed beyond just program and institutional, to include student demographics, types, with targets for types of students (identity, demographics, educational background, credential goals, and FTE types). Upper management may influence the institutional targets for student type targets, and expect that programs and unit SEM activities can explain how their individual areas are going to support this diversity. In practice, much of this may fall on Institutional Research to mine the data and advise on how to divide these efforts across programs.

Institutional Research is a key part of the SEM Division. Institutional capacity is understood deeply, and influence targets set at both institutional and program levels. Feedback loops for proposed targets are established and expertise is sought equally from both the academic and administrative sides of an institution, and a key part of SEM planning. Enrolment projections are an established part of the target setting cycle. Institutional Research suggests both the enrolment targets and projections for the institution and academic levels, and this is turned over to the Division teams to review, amend, and approve. The targets and projections are inherently linked, where adjusting one impacts the other, and are based on an understanding of capacity, and the SEM plan establishing either a growth or stable enrolment goal.

Improving a soapbox car does not always mean increasing the top speed. Some teams may choose to make the steering more comfortable, add a door or windshield, or reinforce the body so the car lasts multiple years, while maintaining their rank in the standings.

At the start of this series, I told the anecdote of a batmobile stylized car being overtaken by a grey tank-shaped car. While I made the analogy that applying the knowledge of the framework to the build might’ve explained the difference in speed, another interpretation is that the batmobile team was satisfied with their speed, and wanted to achieve a different goal. The tank car might be an institution with a SEM plan to grow, and the bat car an institution with SEM plan which prioritizes predictable movement towards their goals. The cars, like institutions, don’t solely compete against each other but their own history, legacy, and mission. The SEM framework provides structure, communication, and resilience to institutions who understand where SEM decision-making, responsibility, and accountability reside to support the design of their activities.

At Plaid Analytics, we're building the world's leading enrollment forecasting platform. Mobile-friendly, accurate (with confidence bands!), and adaptable to your institution's unique needs, Plaid Forecast is a game changer for how you create your enrollment plan. Want to learn more? Reply to this post or send me a message. 

Check out our whole series on Beyond the Strategic Enrolment Plan:

  1. An Introduction to SEM Frameworks & Why They Matter
  2. Uniting Academics and Administration in SEM Frameworks
  3. Framework Challenges & Knowing when to Restructure
  4. Indicators of a Resilient Framework
  5. Examples of Target Setting Processes in the Frameworks