I thought it appropriate to write a fun post comparing the college enrollment management world to a major league baseball front office. I’m a huge baseball fan who actually reads “saber metrics” books for fun, even though I do not claim to have a superior mathematical or statistical mind. Nor have I ever displayed anything close to superior baseball-playing ability. But next week Major League Baseball takes time off from the regular season schedule to host its annual Futures Game for its top minor league prospects as well as its annual All Star Game that showcases the best major league players of the past half season. The timing for this post is quite appropriate.
Like the major league baseball general manager, the chief college enrollment management officer has not only the responsibility for recruiting and developing talent; s/he also has the responsibility for knowing where it is likely to come from in the future. Like the baseball general manager, the chief college enrollment manager forecasts their current versus their future population. S/he wants to know not only the total number of students within a class, but also where they will land academically. High-demand majors are capped at many schools as are honors colleges and programs. A good college enrollment management team will not only know how many students can be admitted to the more selective programs; they will also have a process to retain those who must go in another direction.
For example, the New York Yankees, my favorite team since I started to follow baseball, have working agreements with eight minor league teams. Advancement moves from a rookie league team to a short-season team to Single A, Double A and Triple A ball. While few of the players in the lower minor leagues will ever advance to Triple A ball, let alone the major league team, others will have a chance to continue in the game as a coach, instructor or scout. Not quite unlike an optimistic pre-med freshman who gets redirected after trying to slog through organic chemistry.
The Yankees general manager and his staff monitor the progress of the players at all levels. They highlight their best prospects, the ones that they have invested the most time and money to sign, as well as those who exceed expectations. They also follow the best talent that is still in the high schools and community colleges, just as the college enrollment management office does. The baseball general manager and the chief college enrollment management officer must also look outside the US for talent. But the richest non-US pipelines for baseball players are very different from the talent pipelines for colleges. A major league baseball team will actively scout in Japan and Latin America. A college is more likely to scout in China, Europe, India, the Middle East and South Korea.
Baseball teams and colleges both try to “buy” talent though most colleges expect their students to contribute towards the costs of their education. A baseball team might offer bonus to a high-potential player who is still in high school. The ballplayer can take the bonus and embark on their career. Or he can turn it down, go to college, then go into the draft two seasons later, hoping to qualify for a larger bonus and more rapid advancement towards the major league team. A college might off a prospective student financial incentives, and possibly a better housing situation that is more conducive to learning. A honors college student might also receive special attention through smaller classes and priority registration for classes. A top baseball prospect may also be targeted for special instruction in a winter league in a warm-weather country or a fall instructional league in Arizona.
The college enrollment management office has an enviable job. It gets to determine how to make an educational opportunity accessible, and sometimes more affordable for an incoming class. And, like baseball general managers, their reward is to see that the talent they recruited moves on to rewarding careers.