Lumina, AACRAO, and Minnesota State Team-Up to Increase Enrollments and Success of Adult Learners and Students of Color
Colleges and universities across the country are experiencing declines in enrollment primarily driven by demographic and economic challenges, as well as a challenging narrative around the value of higher education. This comes at a time when post-high school education is critical to economic growth, and employers increasingly seek workers with credentials. Only by employing a blend of strategy and action will the state and college system be poised to support the growing workforce Minnesota needs.
Lumina Foundation has partnered with the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO), and Minnesota State to address these complexities and support the strategic planning needed to improve enrollments of all students with emphasis on engaging adult students and students of color. This grant investment supports State colleges in the development and implementation of Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM) plans. This closely aligns with Minnesota State’s Equity 2030 goal, which seeks to eliminate the educational equity gaps at every Minnesota State college and university by 2030.
AACRAO is a nonprofit, voluntary, professional association of more than 11,000 higher education professionals representing approximately 2,600 institutions in more than 40 countries. AACRAO consultants provide best practice guidance on admissions strategies to meet institutional objectives, delivery of academic programs and innovative ways to meet the needs of a changing student body, and exemplary approaches to student retention and completion. “Strategic Enrollment Management provides a unique framework for improving student and institutional outcomes,” said Michelle Sandlin, interim associate executive director for AACRAO Consulting & SEM. “We are proud to be working with Minnesota State and Lumina to implement SEM plans that will enable comprehensive institutional planning and contribute to student success.”
Lumina is an independent, private foundation committed to making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all. “We’re excited to partner with Minnesota State and AACRAO to support colleges in developing comprehensive plans that address the complex needs of adult students and, not only, provide a smooth on-ramp for enrollment, but also a clear route to graduation,” said, Mary Laphen Pope, strategy officer for community college participation.
Lumina awarded Minnesota State a grant for $418,000 to support the development of SEM plans at community colleges in the Minnesota State system. Through this project, AACRAO coaches worked with participating Minnesota State colleges to establish comprehensive Strategic Enrollment Management plans developed through an equity lens with specific strategies and tactics to address enrollment, the success of adult learners, and the reduction of opportunity gaps for students of color. Each college established goals for increasing enrollment, persistence, and completion in associate degree programs or short-term programs. As of Fall 2022, four participating colleges have finalized their SEM plans, and the remaining eight colleges anticipate completing their work by spring of 2023.
The colleges and universities of Minnesota State have considerable experience with adult learner initiatives and proactively addressing adult learner needs. Each term, more students over the age of 25 and more students of color attend one of the Minnesota State colleges and universities than all other higher education providers in Minnesota combined. Participating in the SEM initiative allows our colleges and universities to partner with national experts to better meet the needs of adult students and students of color.
The impact of this collaboration will also fuel progress towards the State of Minnesota’s 2025 post-high school attainment goal, which calls for 70% of Minnesota adults aged 25 – 44 to have attained a high-quality certificate or degree by 2025 (Minn. Laws 2015 Chapter 69 Article 3 Sec. 6).
Colleges participating in the SEM initiative will continue collecting data to ensure their SEM plans are data-informed and driven. In 2023, AACRAO will host a national convening for all participating institutions to share their experiences and learn from best practices.