Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe University

Strategic Enrollment Managament

“LCOOU would like to continue the trend of encouraging on-campus learning and student engagement; more active efforts will be made towards encouraging on-campus activity. ”

Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe University Strategic Enrollment Plan: THE PLAYBOOK

LCOOU currently has a Solutions Team; this group represents multiple departments across campus including student services, advancement and marketing, recruitment and admissions, institutional research, academic affairs, faculty and more. The Solutions Team meets bi-weekly and is focused on addressing topics related to Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM) planning.

In 2022-2023, LCOOU Solutions Team finalized the LCOOU Strategic Enrollment Management Playbook (SEMP). This is a living document which guides the University in making data-informed decisions around SEM best practices for TCUs. The document will be professionally printed and disbursed annually to university staff, partners, funders, and the collaborative TCU network.

“We have 100% retention as our goal…rationale for sticking with 100% to this day is because every single one of our students counts and matters and even if we don’t reach that 100%, we all have tried the very best that we can as a team and a community to keep every single student in school. And so I don’t think that will ever change as long as we are still here working as a team because it makes sense to the people and it’s always something that keeps us looking forward to the future.”

President Russell Swagger

According to the Department of Education, all post-secondary enrollment trends have been lower than in pre-COVID-19 levels. Despite the challenging academic climate, LCOOU was still able to prioritize strategies which promote student enrollment, persistence, and completion rates. In 2022-2023, enrollment was lower than LCOOU had projected, however, the year prior (2021-2022) LCOOU saw a slight increase in overall enrollment (plus 4 new students), an increase in persistence (11%) and slight decrease in retention (-1%). Overall, LCOOU was able to maintain our average numbers despite the overarched decline in national college enrollment trends. LCOOU has still yet to clearly capture completion data, however, trends indicate a slight increase in the number of degrees conferred (increased average from 49 to 58 degrees conferred per year).

LCOOU experienced some challenges with staff changing positions and turnover throughout the Cultivating Native Student Success project. At many points throughout the journey, the staff on the Solutions Team also had many other responsibilities, which at times interrupted the consistency and workflow of accomplishing SEMP related initiatives. LCOOU has historically been challenged at getting students active on campus. Though LCOOU has many beneficial systems, events, and student services programming; at times lack of consistent and clear communication resulted in low participation in both virtual and in-person engagement opportunities and programming.

LCOOU would like to continue the trend of encouraging on-campus learning and student engagement; more active efforts will be made towards encouraging on-campus activity. LCOOU will also provide options for students who truly need to remain virtual, however, will take a pro-active approach to ensure students are regularly connected with services and programming. LCOOU also spends a great deal of time investing in grant reporting, budgeting, and other grant requirements. Though LCOOU has a wealth of historical data archived, there is currently no central location or formal method to easily accessible these records. LCOOU would like to invest in developing a data dashboard which will serve as a central location for all internal data and will be overseen by Institutional Research (IR). LCOOU would like to continue to invest in staff training around campus resources and would like to revamp the early alert process to provide cross-campus consistency amongst staff, faculty, and adjuncts.

Strategic Enrollment Management dashboard

Key Indicator


Performance Target

Y1: 2020-2021

Y2: 2021-2022

Student Enrollment
311 Students

5-yr AIMS AKIS average

359 Students

by Fall 2022

310 Students

Fall 2020

314 Students
by Fall 2021
Fall-to-Winter Term Student Persistence

3-yr AIM AKIS average

by Spring 2023

Fall 2020 to Spring 2021,
Full-Time Degree Seeking Only (n=133)

Fall 2021 to Spring 2022,
Full-Time Degree Seeking Only (n=118)

First-Year Student Retention

3-yr AIM AKIS average

by Fall 2022

Fall 2019 to Fall 2020 (all full-time and part-time seeking students entering a TCU for the first time)

Fall 2020 to Fall 2021 (all full-time and part-time seeking students entering a TCU for the first time)

Student Completion
(3-YR Graduation Rate for associate degree-seekers, cohort based)

3-yr AIM AKIS average

by Fall 2022 Cohort

Not Yet Available

Not Yet Available

“LCOOU’s Student Support Services philosophy and model is to ensure that students achieve their definition of success and LCOOU is here to assist with resources, referrals, and opportunities to assist the student with accomplishing their goals.”

Best Practices


Holistic Advising Process


  • LCOOU has held several advising models throughout the course of our forty-year history. For many years, LCOOU has deliberated about what would be the best department to house academic advising; should this be housed with student services who are readily available to assist students with finding supports ? Or should this process be mostly held with full-time faculty who know the ins-and-outs of the program? LCOOU discovered a helpful answer; both.
  • LCOOU found that relationships with both faculty and student services staff led to the most successful outcomes for students. In Fall 2019, LCOOU launched the holistic advising model. This process involves a first-year advisor (student services) who welcomes the student on campus and guides the student in their first semester. In this phase, students also complete any financial aid requirements, sign up for support programming, solidify any technical resources and complete any remaining tasks associated with being a new student. Upon completion of the first semester students undergo a warm hand-off and are introduced to their faculty advisor who will guide them academically throughout the remainder of their educational journey.
  • Both faculty and staff utilized our early alert system, Drop Out Detective, to communicate academic and personal needs of students who are flagged as being ‘at risk’. Student Services staff rapidly respond to any alerts issued by faculty and adjuncts. Both faculty and student services staff work together to provide holistic wrap-around support for students, including both academic and personal support.
  • Both Faculty and Student Services staff also prioritize advising strategies, which result in proactive efforts to contact students early and ensure students are well-prepared to enter the next semester. Advisors are positively encouraged through implementing fun and engaging strategies to accomplish this work. LCOOU utilizes simple yet meaningful recognition events such as advisor appreciation lunches, advising competitions, and prizes to promote and celebrate this holistic teamwork.
  • Holistic advising involves utilizing both faculty and staff in the advising process. This ensures students are well­ prepared well before for the next term (books ordered, scholarships completed, classes registered, etc.). A part of his process involves setting specified registration and application deadlines weeks before the start of the term. Students are encouraged by faculty and staff to apply and register early and are entered into an early registration incentive drawing. The initiative is a push for all returning students to register before the end of the current term. Academic advisors have also been encouraged by faculty, staff, and leadership to take a hands-on approach for asks like early registrations, ordering textbooks, applying for scholarships.

Ultimately, this process ensures students receive campus wide support from their first to final semesters resulting in an increase in student persistence, retention, and completion.


  • Prior to the end of Spring 2023, LCOOU faculty and staff collaborated to register 126 students (42%) of the enrolled students for Fall 2023, these collaborative efforts were supported by retention led advising initiatives like the advising competition, early registration incentives, and pro-active advising from faculty/staff.
  • LCOOU also provided advising training for three student services staff who help with registration, withdrawals, and advising questions over the summer months & winter breaks. During Summer 2023, staff advisors (secondary) enrolled an additional 144 students (47%) between June 2023 & July 2023. The remaining students registered with faculty in August 2023. The total number listed in Jenzabar EX was 343 students which was on­ par with historical enrollment trends, however, 41 students had dropped or were automatically dropped before CENSUS date resulting in only 302 as the total enrollment.


Good Grade Incentives (GGI)


  • In 2021-2022, LCOOU was slowly emerging from the COVID-19 global pandemic. Nearly the conclusion of the Fall 2021 semester, LCOOU Student Senate surveyed the campus body and found many students feeling discouraged, unmotivated, and ready to withdraw. Students expressed feeling high levels of both anxiety and depression. In efforts to promote student recognition and internal motivation, LCOOU implemented several positively motivating strategies including the Good Grade Incentive (GGI) program. The GGI program provides and-written congratulations notes as well as a small gift for students earning ABC’s during Mid-Term & Final grades. This process also allowed for closer monitoring and early alert responses to students earning Ds & Fs during the semester.
  • We originally purchased LCOOU swag, however, after the first round, it became logistically challenging and financially demanding to continue to utilize swag items as gifts. LCOOU moved to send out the hand-written note and physical gift cards via mail for a few semesters; this was also logistically challenging and expensive with a percentage of gifts being returned or lost in the mail system.
  • In 2022-2023, LCOOU solidified this process and now issues all gift cards and handwritten notes virtually via student emails. Issuing the GGI this was incentives students checking their emails regularly as well which increases knowledge of campus resources, scholarships, programs, and important academic information. A weekly announcement is sent to students via email and CANVAS messages and includes information about GGI at certain points during the semester.

GGI is a simple way to recognize, encourage, and incentives desired academic accomplishments. The process of issuing GGI also helps provide early alert interventions for students in need and promotes better communication strategies for students.


  • Our internal data for GGI indicates an increase in the percentage of students earning A’s, B’s, and C’s during Mid-Term and Final Grades. From Fall 2021 to Spring 2023, LCOOU has seen a 33% increase in A’s, B’s, and C’s earned (37% to 70%). Some limitations should be noted; the total enrollment has decreased in previous terms; this mirrors the Bureau of Labor Statistics finding on national enrollment decline across all post-secondary institutions (8% decline for all Universities/Colleges, 12% for community colleges with 2-year programs), however, the total number of successful students has not been significantly impacted; this seems to indicate successful students are being retained each term.


Retention Coordinator Position


  • At the beginning of CNSS, we launched the Solutions Creator position. This focused mainly on improving retention through identifying and bridging holes in the student experience and institutional systems. This was still during the global pandemic and there was a serious need for students to engage virtually despite being socially isolated. This position helped the Virtual Help Desk, which aims at being a one-stop student support service for virtual and in-person learners.
  • In the second year of the grant, LCOOU hired for a similar position; Retention Coordinator. This position involved a lot of work with early alerts, while also providing options for in-person and remote engagement. The position also assisted with holistic advising, improving communication with students, streamlining event planning process, and more. The retention coordinator oversees the operations of Virtual Help Desk and ensures that students are made aware of campus resources regularly. The Retention Coordinator is an ear for students who need to vent and an advocate for students who need to speak. The Retention Coordinator is involved in internal assessments and focus groups and uses this feedback to help guide the Solutions Team in making data informed decision on behalf of students. The Retention Coordinator seeks new ways to move the needle towards retention, persistence, and completion for all students.


  • The Retention Coordinator is involved in different Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM) activities which are now starting to illustrate institutional effectiveness for persistence, retention, and completion, including:

BookSwap and BuyBack

  • 287 textbooks purchased
  • 55 unduplicated students
  • 84%- Success Rate (persistence, retention, completion)

Transportation Loyalty Program

  • 549 student activities completed
  • 47 students utilizing program
  • 70% persistence F22-SP23

Virtual-Help-Desk Trivia

  • 138 email responses; 45 unduplicated students.
  • 92% persistence F22 – SP23


Eagles Nest Closet


  • Since 2017, LCOOU has offered an Emergency Aid program. This program provides quick one-time financial assistance (up to $500) for emergency needs, which may impact student persistence, retention, and completion. The program has seen tremendous success and is funding by different partners. To date the program has issued over 500 awards to 260 students; the average success rate (completion, retention, persistence) was 76% across all funding sources; over half of the 24% who did not return transferred to other colleges/universities or had work/life circumstances change.
  • Though this program has had a history of success, one area which has always posed challenges for students is its inability to immediately respond to small-scale requests, especially basic needs. In Fall 2023, LCOOU utilized CNSS funding to launch the Eagles Nest closet at all LCOOU locations. The closet contains an assortment of basic needs for rural and tribal life in Wisconsin including; canned food, household items, toiletries, winter gear, clothing, and more. The main campus closet is housed in a computer lab on campus and does not ask for student’s names, only to self-identify any demographic information and circle whatever type of items they took. The program is funded in part by CNSS, however, LCOOU has been actively making connections with organizations to support the bulk of future costs.


  • LCOOU Eagles Nest is still very new, however, already 25 students have utilized the service at main campus. In Fall 2022, at outreach locations there are also students that use Eagles Nest. 

“LCOOU will continue to utilize the SEMP to create programming while also using successful programming to inform and evolve the SEMP.”

Impact of Covid-19 Pandemic

In March 2020, LCOOU moved into remote working and learning for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester. This move to remote learning was an unprecedented change for the institution and our students. The faculty, support staff, and administration pivoted quickly into the virtual environment; however, students still experienced and felt the tremendous amount of stress and anxiety from a global pandemic.

In Fall 2020, LCOOU attempted a hybrid semester with the options for either in-person or remote learning, but was soon forced to move back into a completely remote session due to a COVID-19 outbreak From Spring 2021 until Spring 2022, LCOOU successfully operated as a hybrid institution offering both in-person and zoom as options for class attendance and participation.

“…LCOOU is taking a gradual approach to help shift students back into in-person sessions and allows Zoom as an option.”

Finally, in Spring 2022, LCOOU made the move back into fully in-person learning, however, despite this change, approximately 70% of students have decided to remain off campus and zoom in for classes. The University has made efforts to require in-person attendance, however, this will drastically impact the majority of students, LCOOU is taking a gradual approach to help shift students back into in-person sessions and allows Zoom as an option.