George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University

Managing Enrollment

Students come to Mason because they trust us to prepare them for a rewarding career. It’s up to each department to answer that trust by budgeting for the resources they need to meet their major requirements and earn their degrees.

As a department chair, you're tasked with managing enrollment in your unit. Whether you're working under a budget restriction or in a time of plenty, your goals are the same. You want to:

  • Maximize enrollment
  • Increase retention.
  • Maintain instructional quality.
  • Control costs.

Mason’s current budget plan allocates resources to each department based on the Course Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) strategy, which measures student-credit hour productivity at the course level. The budget for each academic unit is based on an FTE target that your dean and the provost negotiate.

Units are provided with resources to pay for faculty and other costs to meet their FTE targets. After official FTE counts, budget adjustments are made. Units that don’t meet their targets (100 percent or more of projected FTEs) must return a portion of their funds, which are then distributed to units that exceed their targets.

The best way to meet your target is to match your resources with students’ needs. You know your unit, and you know a realistic number. Share your reasoning and supporting data with the dean, and you’re less likely to have him or her set a target that might not be reachable.

Setting Your Target

A number of issues can affect your target number. Approach the task in a methodical way, and try to account for all determining factors.

  • Make note of any college-wide minimum-course enrollments for undergraduate and graduate courses. Your dean's office should have this information
  • Consider how often a particular course should be offered, based on student demand and various degree requirements.
  • Look at past enrollment numbers for elective courses. Are they consistently filled, or do they often fall below projections?
  • Examine enrollment trends in courses that have multiple sections. You must balance fiscal considerations (maximum number of seats, minimum number of sections) with instructional factors (for example, some writing-intensive courses must be small).
  • Try to avoid scheduling conflicts among required courses. If your degree requirements include courses offered by other departments, work with them to make sure your students don't struggle to develop a workable schedule. They might choose to drop your course in favor of another.
  • Use care when scheduling full-time faculty members. Their classes should attract sufficient enrollment to justify the course.
  • Prioritize departmental and student needs. You want to honor faculty teaching interests as much as possible, but that can't be your first priority.

Available Resources

The Office of Institutional Research and Assessment reports preliminary enrollment and official enrollment numbers, which can help you track your department’s numbers during registration and drop- and add-periods.

IRA uses current Internet Native Banner (INB) data and compares it with your department’s operational enrollment goals. You can also search enrollment targets by semester to see how well your department met enrollment goals in the past.

Other useful tools include enrollment planning reports on:

These reports are generated through Data Mart, for which periodic training sessions are available. Sessions cover such topics as viewing student enrollment reports and introductory and advanced sessions on using the student/course Data Mart.

For more information about the enrollment management process, contact Renate Guilford, Associate Provost for Academic Administration, at 703-993-2299.

Parsing the Numbers

There are two types of FTE numbers used for budget allocations:

  • Student. The Commonwealth of Virginia bases the amount of funding it allocates to Mason on our Student FTE total, the number of full-time equivalent students enrolled here.
  • Course. Mason uses Course FTE numbers, derived from student-credit hour productivity at the course level, to determine funding for academic units.

The formulas for calculating Course FTEs:

  • Undergraduate/professional (fall and spring). Total credit hours in a course divided by 15.
  • Undergraduate/professional (summer). Total credit hours in a course divided by 30.
  • Graduate (fall and spring). Total credit hours in a course divided by 12.
  • Graduate (summer). Total credit hours in a course divided by 24.
  • Regular session: Fall Course FTE total + Spring Course FTE total.
  • Annualized session: Fall Course FTE total + Spring Course FTE total + Summer Course FTE total.
Students attending academic advising session for students interested in becoming teachers.

The College of Education and Human Development hosts an academic advising session for undergraduates interested in becoming teachers. Providing students with resources that directly fit their interests can help an academic unit keep its retention rates up.