Salish Kootenai College

Strategic Enrollment Management

“The Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM) plan and work done through the Cultivating Native Student Success (CNSS) project has brought about awareness of what we do well and areas for improvement. It has helped to lay out a purposeful plan and to initiate change to better serve our students.”

The SEMurai Group: The Mission, Vision, and College Strategic Plan

The SEM plan was created with the Salish Kootenai College (SKC) mission, vision, and strategic plan as a foundation. The SEMurai group, as it is called, reviewed this documentation to identify the specific components of each that are central to SEM, identified areas of commonality and overlap, and identified a priority list. The focus was set on recruitment, onboarding, and retention. Each goal of the SEM plan has a SKC Strategic Plan alignment designation as applicable. This provides a clear connection between both plans for readers and those implementing the plan.

Members of the SEMurai group were selected based on their roles within the institution. This provided for the consideration of other college planning. For example, SKC was working on website development, which is directly addressed in the SEM plan, so least one representative from the website committee serves on the SEM plan team.

As various pieces of the SEM plan were developed, individuals whose work was directly impacted by those pieces were brought into the development conversation. The overall process of developing the SEM plan involved students, staff, faculty, and administration. Involving representation from these various groups in the planning process helped to create a sense of ownership, as many voices were included in the design and content of the plan, which also created transparency. This is not a top-down plan; it is a campus-owned plan.

Involving multiple voices also created a stronger sense of accountability for the work. The involvement of many people across campus is improving interdepartmental relations and developing stronger holistic approaches to our work. Staff, faculty, and administration are all more aware of the work that occurs outside of their departments and how their own work impacts other departments. This has increased individual knowledge of campus-wide systems, which leads to better advising and support of students. Being able to see the larger picture outside of one’s department can be an eye-opening experience that leads to a greater sense of purpose and better streamlining of services and efforts between departments.

“As a result, staff, faculty, and administration are all more aware of the work that occurs outside of their departments and how their own work impacts other departments.”

The number of open key positions was the main challenge. At times and for prolonged periods, there were many positions open on campus. Local housing and economic factors have made filling positions difficult. Of the original five-person CNSS team, only one remains full-time with SKC, and one former team member is contracted for consultant work. As a result, the composition of the CNSS team changed quite early and currently has some openings due to unfilled positions. This created the challenge of onboarding new team members and reorganizing work to reflect the current campus climate. Additionally, in January 2020, the new VP Enrollment Management and Student Affairs (EMSA) took over the SEMurai SEM Planning group.

The last three years, within the CNSS project, has allowed SKC to develop a comprehensive and focused SEM plan that is actionable and purposeful. Much work has already been done or started to develop and improve procedures and policies that impact student retention, persistence, and completion. But SKC is still in the early stages of implementation. Over the next three years, SKC’s SEM goals include continued and expanded training in key positions related to recruitment, enrollment, persistence, and completion to fully implement SEM plan strategies and best practices across campus; analysis of data collection efforts for efficiency and effectiveness across the college; campus-wide professional development in data collection and analysis to build data capacity and data driven decision making; and further growing holistic efforts across campus that improve recruitment, onboarding, retention, advising, and completion.

Salish Kootenai College SEM Committee Members

  • President
  • Vice President Enrollment Management and Student Affairs
  • Director for Office of Institutional Effectiveness
  • Career Services Director
  • Assistant Director Center for Prevention and Wellness



Holistic Advising

Students are Our SPU’US

One on One, Personalized

Culture in Every Class

Strategic Enrollment Management dashboard

Key Indicator


Performance Target

Y1: 2020-2021

Y2: 2021-2022

Y3: 2022-2023

Student Enrollment
812 Students

5-yr AIMS AKIS average

879 Students

by Fall 2022

716 Students

Fall 2020; 9% increase in freshman enrollment

621 Students

619 Students
Fall-to-Winter Term Student Persistence

3-yr average for all students; institutional data; average is 73% for first-year students

by Spring 2022

Fall to Winter 2020,
First-Year Students Only

First-Year Student Retention

3-yr average, institutional data

by Fall 2022

Fall 2019 to Fall 2020

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

3-yr average, institutional data

by Fall 2020 Cohort

Not Yet Available

“We have also been able to identify areas needing attention, such as holes in our processes and procedures, particularly in the areas of data, student services, and enrollment processes which we have been able to address.”

Best Practices


Student centric rather than student focused procedures, services, and supports


  • When we first began our work, we began to realize that what we were doing was generated and driven by faculty and staff and did not take into consideration the student perspective. What may work well for us does not necessarily work well for students, nor is it necessarily the best path for the students. This was our Achilles heel. We learned that we were neither asking the right questions, involving the right people, nor collecting the right data, all of which are keys to progress and planning. As a result, our decisions were not data-informed. Decisions were historically reactive, instead of proactive, grounded in anecdotal information, hearsay, and responsive to the loudest voice in the room.

Decision making processes have moved to purposeful inclusion of relevant voices and careful formulation of questions. Data collection and analysis is also becoming more purposeful as a result.


  • When we started working to remodel our website, students were brought into the meetings to give us feedback. We realized that our website was not user-friendly from the student and the public’s perspectives. There were issues with navigation and incomplete or missing information that we had not thought to include. As a result of this work, we are on the verge of launching a new website that not only is user-friendly and provides students with functional information for college success, but also functions as a strong recruitment strategy. 


Incorporating the SEM plan into department annual plans


  • The academic and non-academic programs and departments create annual plans each year that include goals, a plan of action for each goal, and identified means of identifying whether goals are met. While the annual plans are aligned with the general mission and vision of SKC, they often reflect individual interpretation of these, but they do not necessarily align with the SEM plan, which delineates the campus wide plan of action to succeed in meeting SKC’s mission and vision. The SEM plan can become lost or neglected as individualized goals and efforts become siloed.

By purposefully incorporating the SEM plan into department annual plans, the shared plan remains a focal point of the goals, strategies, and measures of each department, while also allowing for individual department work to be included.


  • The current iteration of the SEM plan includes goals, strategies, and identified measurements in the areas of recruitment, onboarding, and retention. The plan also identifies which departments “own” the goals, strategies, and measures. This is the first year that we are requiring departments to include the SEM plan in their annual reports, so we will not have data to measure the alignment of individual department work in meeting the goals of the SEM plan until departments provide the yearly reports reflecting on their annual plan results. However, we have observed, that departments are finding the SEM plan to be user friendly and useful in creating their annual plans. Departments are more aware of their role in achieving the work set out in the SEM plan, and the plan provides them with guidance with respect to what they need to accomplish. This allows them to focus on developing and implementing actions that move the college forward in a unified way.


Reorganizing and creating new positions to better align with the SEM plan


  • It often seems easy to try to make new ideas work within an old system. However, that is not always the best way to grow and achieve success. The old system may feel comfortable, and there can be resistance to change. It often takes the pain of getting out of one’s comfort zone to achieve true growth. While creating our SEM plan, we recognized areas that needed more focused attention, such as enrollment services, student services, recruitment, dual and concurrent enrollment, and first-year student retention.
  • As a result, new positions were created. These included the Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs (VP EMSA); the Director of Early College Outreach and Recruitment; the Assistant Director of Academic Success; and the Retention Coordinator. Of course, this was not without trial and error. For example, the Retention Coordinator was originally the Director of First-Year Retention and in its own department. However, in this case, it was recognized that there was duplicative effort going on with the Department of Academic Success and the first-year retention work was siloed in a one-person department that made program development and implementation difficult to achieve. Reimagining the position within the context of a larger department allowed first year retention to integrate as a focus within the student success system, allowing for better collaboration of efforts and streamlined hand-offs between the first and second year of a student’s college experience.

Reimagining positions, reorganizing, and aligning positions to better meet our SEM plan needs has allowed for significant change and growth to occur through increased attention and focus.


  • Creating new positions and adjusting the organizational chart has resulted in the ability to provide increased focus on student enrollment services and student supports across campus. These were previously housed under the Vice President of Academic Affairs (VPAA) position, meaning one person was overseeing all academics, enrollment, and student affairs and supports. As a result of the growing workload due to campus expansion over the years, it was realized that areas were not getting the attention they needed to keep up with the changing needs of our students. Splitting the position has resulted in the ability of the college to increase focus on academics through the VPAA, while also increasing focus on enrollment and student affairs and supports under the VP EMSA. As a result, much needed reorganizing, refreshing of processes and procedures, and the creation of new processes and procedures under the VP EMSA has allowed for improved experiences and services in relation to recruitment, enrollment, retention, and completion.
  • The formation of the Director of Early College Outreach and Recruitment has aligned early college and dual enrollment programming with recruitment efforts. The creation of an Assistant Director of Academic Success position has freed up the Director to focus on academic programming (High School Equivalency, Developmental Studies, Academic Success, Campus Tutoring Services) that supports student academic growth, as the Assistant Director oversees the Success Coaches, Retention Coordinator, and early alert system, and coordinates with the Center for Prevention and Wellness (CPW) to address behavioral and wellbeing issues. In addition, the Assistant Director oversees data collection and reporting, which has increased data collection, analysis, and utilization with respect to onboarding and retention efforts. Finally, the Retention Coordinator position has expanded direct interaction with students, with a particular focus on first year students, to increase retention. The Retention Coordinator also collects data, increasing data analysis and utilization in programming. The Assistant Director and Retention Coordinator work closely with other departments, such as CPW, Disability Services, Enrollment Services, in ways that were not happening before the creation of these positions, creating a more holistic system and approach to student retention. Each of the new positions aligns with the goals and work within the scope of our SEM plan – recruitment, onboarding, and retention.


Identify what you want before you go looking for it


  • Institutions collect a lot of data, which takes time and energy from other processes and work. Data can be a powerful tool, and when data collection, analysis, and application is effective and purposeful, the resulting actions can have significant impacts. However, if data collection is not purposeful or efficiently managed, it can take the focus away from meaningful work. It is important to think about and identify what you want to know and why you want to know it before deciding what data to collect and how to collect it. Data lacking a purpose often goes unanalyzed because there is no focus or purpose to guide the analysis. This data also often is not collected or formatted in a way that can be analyzed due to the lack of purpose.


  • Within the scope of our grant work, we identified the need to collect and analyze data related to why students were dropping courses or totally withdrawing from school. We started collecting information from students. However, this did not become efficient until we identified some purposes for collecting the data. Upon reflection, we decided that we wanted to know if the reasons were or were not controllable by the institution. We also wanted to hear from students what they needed – what, if anything, could have prevented the need to drop classes and/or withdraw? The purpose of collecting and analyzing the data was to improve our ability to identify student needs and be proactive in having appropriate student supports in place. This led to the development of a google form that students complete as a part of the drop process, identification of who administers the form, who collects the data, and who processes and analyzes the data to make sure the key players are brought into the conversation. One area that we identified as a student need is preparedness before arriving on campus, including transportation, daycare, housing, etc. As a result, a detailed process has been put in place to ensure that there is a purposeful handoff of incoming students from admissions to the success team prior to students arriving on campus. The success team connects with students to identify areas of potential concern and address them prior to students arriving on campus. Success coach positions were changed from 10-month to 12-month positions to accommodate the extra pre-intervention work during the summer in preparation for the fall quarter.


Be specific in the SEM plan, especially when it comes to identifying ownership and accountability of the work


  • Strong and thoughtful SEM plans are great, but they require accountability to be successfully implemented. Each step of a process or procedure needs to be specifically assigned to a department or individual to make sure that processes and procedures are properly and consistently implemented. This practice also lends itself to strong succession planning.
  • In addition, by purposefully assigning ownership of the SEM work, faculty, staff, and administration are all aware of their individual roles, as well as the roles of the collective, in implementing the SEM plan. As such, work is not left hanging because it is assumed that others are completing it. As SKC departments are now asked to include their SEM roles in their annual plans, this helps to focus their work on implementing SEM strategies and meeting SEM goals. The SEM plan also provides measurements for assessing achievement, so departments have a basis for data collection and analysis.


  • One recent example focuses on degree audits and class coding of students. When students change majors, their earned credits need to be reevaluated within the new degree plan for proper advising and consistent, correct data collection and analysis. Recently, it was realized that academic advisors believe this was happening through the Registrar’s Office. However, the Registrar’s Office views this as an academic advising procedure and believes that advisors are doing the degree plan audits. There was also a question of who is responsible for updating class codes in the academic systems. The work is often done, but is it always happening? Is it getting entered in the system and by who? As a result of analyzing current practices, an updated procedure has been developed that specifically identifies who is responsible for each step. This will ensure timely degree audits that improve academic advising and data accuracy.

This is the first year in which departments have been asked to include specific SEM work in their annual plans. We look forward to seeing if there is a correlation between SEM in annual plans and increased success in implementing SEM work.

“As a result of the SEM work, we have improved data collection efforts by identifying specific data needs and focusing on purposeful data collection. Data informed decision making has increased.”

Impact of Covid-19 Pandemic

As with many aspects of our world, COVID-19 had a significant impact on our SEM planning and work. The beginning of the pandemic required an almost instant switch to everything being online. As a TCU, we value and focus on in-person, one-on-one, personal interactions with our students and in the work we do with our co-workers. Much of our work was forced to be reactive to prioritize and address real time issues, leaving little or no room for proactive growth. As a result, much of our SEM planning and work was placed in a holding pattern until stability could be accomplished.

 “Another impact of COVID 19 on our SEM planning has resulted from the ensuing housing market and recession…. this impacted affordable housing availability for students and staff.”

As many jobs became fully online and people fled cities for rural areas, our local region was flooded with people moving into the area, buying up property and houses for more than local people could afford. Along with skyrocketing property prices came high increases in rent. In addition, rentals became scarce as people bought up rentals to use as summer homes or to rent out for use as Airbnb’s, which bring in higher profits as single night vacation rentals than permanent living rentals. This impacted affordable housing availability for students and staff alike.

While these impacts have challenged our SEM planning and work efforts, there have been some positive outcomes. Many processes and procedures have become paperless and more streamlined. This has led to increased efficiency in many workflows. Our capacity to provide online learning opportunities for students has also increased. We have also been able to identify areas needing attention, such as holes in our processes and procedures, particularly in the areas of data, student services, and enrollment processes which we have been able to address. Additionally, some needs of students have become more apparent, allowing us to refocus our efforts and provide support that is more aligned with student needs. Identifying and addressing these areas of need have increased our capacity to serve students and provide them with more positive experiences throughout their educational journeys.