On today’s episode of the Illumination by Modern Campus podcast, guest host Shauna Cox was joined by Craig Maslowsky to discuss the increasing competition among higher ed as learner demographics shifts, and how to scale frictionless experiences to best serve the modern learner.
Voiceover: Welcome to Illumination by Modern Campus, the leading podcast focused on transformation and change in the higher education space. On today’s episode, we speak with Craig Maslowsky, who is Vice Chancellor of Enrollment Management at Antioch University. Craig and podcast guest host Shauna Cox discuss the increasing competition among higher ed as learner demographics shifts, and how to scale frictionless experiences to best serve the modern learner. Welcome to Illumination by Modern Campus, the leading podcast focused on transformation and change in the higher education space.
Shauna Cox (00:02) All right. Well, Craig, welcome to the Illumination podcast. It's great to have you here.
Craig Maslowsky (00:08): Thank you. It's great to be here.
Shauna Cox (00:10): Awesome. So let's just dive right in. How has the enrollment management space transformed over the past decade?
Craig Maslowsky (00:18): Wow quite a bit in my experience. And so I guess we're talking about back to 2013. It really isn't news that competition to attract students has vastly increased across the board as we've, we've seen demographic shifts decreased demand for degrees, increased expectations for career outcomes and I, I think really pressure for more experiential learning experiences. And that's diminished our ability to rely on prestige and brand alone to attract students.
And I think, you know, it's really demanded a more proactive approach to our work at a level that I hadn't seen in a decade prior to that. The intensifying competitive dynamics really demand that as enrollment management teams were optimizing on an ongoing basis that we are transforming our operations as needed and that we're becoming more and more sophisticated and using new technologies and, and approaches to really to educate and serve the students. So I think it's a huge win for the students, and it because it demands that we are articulating the value of our offerings in, in current and meaningful ways, and that we're responding to like workforce dynamics with greater agility constantly looking for ways to more effectively educate and engage those prospective students and applicants versus serving them information for them to process.
Shauna Cox (02:06): Just a couple things over the decade that's transformed. Clearly as you know, enrollment management professionals, their roles and responsibilities have clearly evolved over, you know, the past decade, especially more recent years with the pandemic and things like that. What are some of the common misconceptions that people have about those roles and responsibilities when it comes to the enrollment management professionals?
Craig Maslowsky (02:36): Well, I guess that that depends on where someone's coming from. But essentially I think that the biggest misconception would be that enrollment management professionals are here to process incoming applications. And that it's, you know, that it's a, a position where that's what we're doing. We're, you know, there's applications coming in, we review, accept, we want to accept and then a class, you know, magically is generated. Our job really, you know, I think there's a lack of understanding regarding the scale and scope of engagement that we are facilitating in order to attract the students to educate them on the institutions that we're representing and, and to support them all the way through to the start of the program because with all different populations of students their needs and expectations. And I think what's required to give them a sense of competence in their decision is going to be different.
And so this requires that we are delivering really frictionless positive experiences for the students. As programs grow, we do it at scale in ways that are going to serve. And really actually, I think with increasing competition, impress students and when I say that, I mean impress them in the level of service that they're receiving so that we can maintain the rates of enrollment, pipeline progression, sorry to use more technical term, but and ultimately our student enrollment. So, you know, I think this is driven by student expectations that are continuing to evolve with advancements in end user experience across other digital platforms that they're engaging with every day. Cause they're more and more empowered with information as access to information expands and feedback from others who have had a similar experience in these programs expands.
And so we have to provide, we have to be a source of clarity. And, and that, and doing that means constantly updating the presentations of the presentation of offerings as our institutions evolve and which is happening more rapidly in response to competitive dynamics that I mentioned earlier. And so I, I think that because of the competition and the fact that there's alternative pathways to professions with each year that passes it, it's increasingly challenging to maintain those rates of progression that we're responsible for. So, so that just means that we have to be vigilant and sorry, as I'm saying this, I'm thinking of, of another misconception, and that is that we, as enrollment managers alone, or as enrollment management teams alone can support levels of enrollment, right. Like independently drive that those figures.
We play a critical role in communicating and supporting students during the introduction and the onboarding of those students into programs. But we depend on a variety of other departments at the institutions to provide, you know, first to, to be providing learning experiences and, and supports that respond to the evolving needs of the students. So we have to provide insight into the prospective student perceptions and provide that back to effectively provide that back to other departments at the institution. And then we also have to be receiving information and processing that in a way that we can translate it to a format or, or, or through communication channels, that it will actually be received by prospective students. Because ultimately what we want to do is help them to make an informed decision about whether or not our institution is the best institution for them.
Shauna Cox (06:30): Absolutely. And I think that leads perfectly into the next question of how can enrollment managers more effectively work across campus, as you mentioned, to support institutional achievement when it comes to access, retention and completion goals?
Craig Maslowsky (06:49): Yeah, that's a big question. I mean, I think first and foremost the experience matters. The enrollment experience matters as the first connection with the institution. I, I think that providing access to the information required to make an informed decision about whether or not to enroll, to use the words I just used is really a, a critical way for us to attract students who will be most successful in those programs. We can provide information that gives someone a clear sense of what that experience will be like so they can feel prepared and confident as they progress. And, and, but these experiences that we're offering have to really seamlessly align with the onboarding of students into those educational journeys. And it's not just procedural. We have to design those experiences that are rooted in the values of our institutions as well as the needs of the students.
And then you also mentioned access. That’s going to be especially critical for enrollment management teams looking ahead there's been, what we've experienced is an, an awakening in the past three years, a critical escalation of activism. And it's demanded institutions take clear action to create environments that are welcoming and supportive and attentive to existing injustices and the need to change. And so, thankfully, I think we will continue to see this intensify especially as we face threats to affirmative action and the rollbacks associated with that, they're anticipated. And we need to identify practices and, and new levers that are going to help us to offset the challenges this will likely create and, and give us an ability to make progress on serving diverse student populations and attracting diverse student populations into our institutions.
Because that, you know, access is a very complex challenge because of the diversity of our country and the students that we're serving. So institutions really have to show up in ways that are addressing the specific populations that those institutions are committing to support. And, and, and a true commitment to that access is going to require that institutions change. I mean, we have to change consider, we have to take a hard look at our, our practices and, and those include, include those of us, that includes those of us who are leading enrollment management teams. We have to establish clear nurture nurturing cultures of care and nurture and inclusivity. And I think awareness so that we can continue to evolve. And it can't just be rhetoric. We have to have policies in place that are carefully reviewed and redeveloped. And it is just a one of a long list of reasons why we need chief diversity officers and enrollment management teams need to be engaging with, and working closely with chief diversity officers that are well resourced and involved in all aspects of the institution's operations. Enrollment management will be a critical component, but I think it's an institutional effort for sure.
Shauna Cox (10:27) What are some of the trends in your opinion that will shape the next maybe decade, maybe we'll go five to eight years for enrollment managers?
Craig Maslowsky (11:07): Well, you know, I think we so far discussed a number of different trends that will be factors in the way that we operate as enrollment management teams. I think what that demonstrates is, and what we will see from enrollment management departments and units, is that we have to be able to adapt to rapidly evolving dynamics in ways that we have not demonstrated before collectively. And, and so enrollment management has to be as ready for that as every other department in the institution. We adapt as institutions. So, you know, we have to look at, at ourselves and our institutions in ways that overcome what I think historically have been these silos that are an impediment to our, our progress. So, and improving that adaptability isn't something that we just convince our teams to commit to. We have to create the infrastructure for adaptability.
So we have to have established metrics and KPIs, and this has been very present in enrollment units, but I think that needs to extend into other units at, at the institution and our infrastructure to measure those, our opportunities and challenges and direction that or that inform the direction that we're going in really have to be designed for adaptability. And so what I think that points to is a need for, I mentioned the chief diversity officer in the critical nature of that role, but I think we also need chief data officers who are helping various departments and institutions as a whole to utilize the, the, the data that we are, are now, we now have access to because of advancements in the accessibility of technologies. Well, I think cloud-based technologies have changed the way that we, we are able to utilize the technologies that are available for our operations and for serving students.
But that's only a starting point. Those systems collect, they generate a ton of data, but for us to really make progress and be able to identify when we should adapt, how we should adapt, and then how we can continue to optimize that is going to require that we know how to use that we can translate that into information and insights that provide us with the direction to, to, to address the competition that we're experiencing to serve diverse populations, and then ultimately to retain employees because we're seeing that as a, a major factor moving forward as well. So that really kind of boils down to a shift in not only the way that we're working, but in culture collectively. I just think we have to really be attentive to the culture that we're creating on our teams.
In our case, we have a lot more remote employees now. We have set up entire departments from the ground up in a remote modality. And in order to maintain our culture and a, a positive work environment, we've really had to invest in that, in nurturing that, and making sure that, that people feel empowered. They have tolerance of new levels of risk that maybe they haven't experienced in higher education before. That, that they have an ability to see, you know, where we need to change next. And that's just the starting point. So I think if we, but bottom line, if we remain focused on generating the best possible outcomes for students and let that guide us experience and outcomes, I want to emphasize outcomes because, you know, there's a much more practical perspective on what people expect of higher education institutions and what we deliver. But I'm confident that's what is going to take for us to be able to survive and thrive despite all the pressures and challenges that, that lie ahead for the reasons that we discussed earlier. So if we can let go of, of the things that, that the, of how things were and commit to letting students direct our efforts moving forward I think that's a win-win situation where their success really becomes ours.
Shauna Cox (15:59): Absolutely. Well, Craig, that's everything I have for you. Thank you so much for taking the time out to speak with us today. We really appreciate it.
Craig Maslowsky (16:11): Thank you very much. I enjoyed it.
Voiceover: This podcast is made possible by a partnership between Modern Campus and The EvoLLLution. The Modern Campus engagement platform, powered solutions for non-traditional student management, web content management, catalog and curriculum management, student engagement and development, conversational text messaging, career pathways, and campus maps and virtual tours. The result innovative institutions can create learner to earner life cycle that engages modern learners for life, while providing modern administrators with the tools needed to streamline workflows and drive high efficiency. To learn more and to find out how to modernize your campus, visit moderncampus.com. That's moderncampus.com.