Winona State has an Enrollment Projection model we presented at the most recent AIRUM (Association for Institutional Research in the Upper Midwest) Conference. We use it primarily to set goals for Admissions for our target New Entering Freshmen (NEF) and New Entering Transfer Student (NET) counts in the fall. We have a pretty good feel for how many students we can accommodate comfortably and we want to set our Admissions goals so we don’t exceed that limit too much.
The model is really pretty simple. We estimate retention rates and advancement rates for Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors, Seniors, Graduate Students and “Other” (PSEO students, Specials, etc.) based on observed values in previous years. We also estimate the number of new students entering the University in each of these classes using a combination of past data and inputs to the model: Fall NEF and NET counts. From there a simple formula using these values can calculate headcount and FTEs in future fiscal years.
Fall NEF and NET counts are model inputs; we don’t attempt to model them. That won’t make sense for an institution with an open admission policy, but at WSU our Admissions office modifies their practices to attempt to hit an Admission goal. The purpose of this model is to set that goal, not to predict what our incoming class sizes would be if we had an open admission policy.
Our model ignores a lot. We don’t directly model retention and graduation rates. We treat Seniors as one group, but we know we have 4th year, 5th year and 6th year Seniors in the system. Winona State has two campuses (Rochester and Winona), but we don’t include campus in the model. Nor do we look at major declaration or student demographics.
But for all we are ignoring, the model is very accurate. Our error rate for predicting overall FTEs in a fiscal year made in the Fall term of the previous fiscal year ranges from -1.9% to 0.4% over the past five years. We consider that “pretty good for what it is”.
If you want more information, we have it: