How NCAA Division III colleges and universities use athletics as part of their strategic enrollment management plan: A case study of three institutions

Maureen Patricia Weatherall, University of Pennsylvania


Over the last thirty years, colleges and universities have been faced with an increasingly competitive marketplace for students, faculty and resources. One group that has been impacted significantly by these trends is small private liberal arts colleges. These institutions are tuition dependent and have been forced to respond to the changing market to maintain their position. Many of these colleges are members of the National Collegiate Athletic Association's (NCAA) Division III. The division does not offer athletic scholarships and focuses on the intercollegiate varsity athletics as a positive experience for the individual student-athletes and their campus community. Within this community, there has been discussion about the role athletics plays on their campus and the impact of athletic recruiting and participation. As these colleges face the challenges of the marketplace, some have developed plans to optimize tuition revenue, improve entering class profiles and increase retention, and many have created Enrollment Management divisions that may include a wide array of departments such as admissions, financial aid, student life, student services and housing. This dissertation is a study of three NCAA Division III member colleges: Gettysburg College, Oberlin College and Saint John Fisher College that have included varsity athletics as part of their integrated enrollment management strategy. Oberlin College, Gettysburg College and Saint John Fisher College are all small liberal arts colleges, but they vary dramatically in prestige, endowment, selectivity and history. Their approach to developing their integrated enrollment strategy differed based upon their market position and culture, but the basic components were constant, and confidence in the success of the strategy was reported on all three campuses. Increases in enrollment, selectivity and yield can be measured over time at the institutions. Since this is a qualitative study, it was not possible to isolate the impact of athletics, and therefore it is not possible to generalize these conclusions to other institutions. The researcher concludes that a Division III college that is facing enrollment declines, or that is designing a plan to improve its selectivity and market position, should seriously explore the possibility of using intercollegiate athletics in its integrated enrollment management strategy.

Subject Area

Higher education|Marketing

Recommended Citation

Weatherall, Maureen Patricia, "How NCAA Division III colleges and universities use athletics as part of their strategic enrollment management plan: A case study of three institutions" (2006). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3209999.