The 2013 ACT Enrollment Planners Conference (EPC) “hit a home run,” according to Earl Dowling, associate vice president of student affairs at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.
Dowling, one of three representatives from College of DuPage to attend the July 10–12 conference in Chicago, said the conference tone was established for him from the beginning by ACT staff who were available to answer questions and provide directions.
Bob Johnson (left), president of Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC, talks with Michael Crawford (center), director of enrollment marketing, and Chase Replogle, web designer, both at Evangel University, following Johnson’s presentation on email marketing examples for converting inquiries into applications.
The first EPC was held in 1986 and annually attracts hundreds of educators, from entry-level employees to chief enrollment officers, who are involved in planning, managing, and enhancing enrollment services. Conference topics include the latest issues in enrollment management involving social media and technology and innovative marketing, recruitment, and retention strategies.
“We bill EPC as the highest-quality, best-value enrollment management conference available,” said Michael Hovland, principal consultant of enrollment management services and manager of the ACT Enrollment Planners Conference.
The 2013 EPC attracted a record-breaking 780 attendees, compared to 660 in 2012 and 383 in 2005. Hovland also maintained this year’s EPC was the best in terms of quality and diversity of sessions.
ACT Chief Executive Officer Jon Whitmore welcomes attendees at the 28th annual ACT Enrollment Planners Conference.
Steve Kappler, ACT assistant vice president and head of postsecondary strategy, said session attendance was one indication of the conference’s success. Sessions were full until 4 p.m. despite the beautiful weather in Chicago, and that’s true year after year, he said.
“No one skips out,” Kappler said. “They go to all the sessions. They bring back notebooks full of notes. And people are really engaged in learning. That’s just a cool thing.”
During the conference, ACT released its College Choice Report—Part 2: Enrollment Patterns. One of the report’s key findings was that the greater a student’s academic achievement, the farther away from home that student is likely to attend college. ACT findings suggest that student awareness plays a major role in this phenomenon. The findings, Kappler said, complement those recently released by The Hamilton Project, which suggested that high-achieving, low-income students don’t always take advantage of all existing postsecondary opportunities.
Amy Laitinen, deputy director for higher education, New America Foundation, was a keynote speaker at this year’s ACT Enrollment Planners Conference.
Kappler said he hopes more ACT-tested students, especially minorities, will release their names and allow institutions to recruit them. “If they don’t know about you, you may never find the right-fit college,” he stressed.
Kappler advised postsecondary employees to read and digest the College Choice Report. He referenced the interactive charts and maps on ACT’s website that offer visual comparisons of state- and region-aggregated information about the college choice behaviors of ACT-tested students.
“You can look at New York versus, say, Iowa and see the differences in data and what students are doing and saying. It really gives institutions an opportunity to build stronger recruitment plans by understanding the nuances of each of the states,” said Kappler.
Back on the College of DuPage campus, Dowling and his two colleagues consolidated their notes and shared what they learned at EPC with others. They are now determining what they can implement on campus.
Dowling’s key takeaway from EPC: “How I should be using the [National Student] Clearinghouse more?”
The 2014 conference will be held July 23–25 in Chicago.