29: Enrollment Growth Simulation Modeling at Worcester Polytechnic Institute w/ Dr. Raafat Zaini

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Dr. Raafat Zaini, Research Scientist at Worcester Polytechnic Institute discusses the dynamic enrollment model for university expansion he created at WPI and the interdependence between enrollment factors and cost centers to create a scalable model for growth detailed in his research study, Let’s Talk Change in a University: A Simple Model for Addressing a Complex Agenda.

Dr. Raafat Zaini's research interest is in the area of organizational dynamics and innovation sustainability with a focus on a multi-perspective design approach and dynamic modeling of R&D organizations and higher education institutions. Raafat holds a B.S in mechanical engineering (KFUPM 1990), M.S. in aeronautical and industrial engineering (Purdue 1999) and Ph.D. in system dynamics and organization behavior (WPI 2017).

You can reach Dr. Zaini at rzaini@wpi.edu and on both Twitter and LinkedIn @raafatzaini

You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, a proud member of the connect e Tou podcast network. I'm Eric Olson, AVP of marketing at Helix Education, and we're here today with Dr Rafat Zany, research scientists at Wooster Polytechnic Institute. DRS any, welcome to the show. Thank you, headanks, for having me. Perhaps more than anyone, drs any is uniquely qualified to be a guest on enrollman growth university because he actually built out in enrollment growth model simulator at WPI to better understand the interdependence of all the different enrollment growth factors at an institution. But before we dig into that, drs any, can you get the listeners a little bit better understanding of both Wooster Polytechnic Institute and your role there? So what's to put a technic institute or WPI? For sure, is a small engineering school that is located in the heart of Massachusetts. It is very well known for it is project based learning for the undergraduate programs and it has also a strong and growing graduate program as well. We can call it a head in gym, if you will, and my role is a research scientist at the Social Science and policy studies WPI, and during my studies I work at the interdisciplinary connection between the social sciences, modeling and simulation and Group Organization behavior. Awesome doctors. Any what was the original goal behind this dynamic Roman...

...model for university expansion that you built out at WPI? So the original goal was to create space for both of the Administration and faculty views to be represented around this important topic, that is, enrollment growth. And so your model simulation show that individual stakeholders and departments are very good at fighting for and getting what makes their world more efficient and more profitable, a more effective in Roman growth engine for the university, but that they don't always understand how their decisions impact the rest of the institution. How can an institution avoid these kinds of decisions made in isolation, and is it simply a greater awareness of things like your model and the interdependence between all these enroman growth factors. So first of all, you know, such decisions need to be taken as a group. There's need to be more involvement of more stakeholders who are touched by such issues. I mean enrollment growth could be a quick decision. However, the implications of that would manifest itself over time. Some of them would be short term, that will show up and some of them will be long term. So the building the model is just making these interconnections more explicit and also helps each stakeholder around the table represent what they think is going to happen or even describe the reality of the situation. So this is how we see too, like modeling and simulation is helping these stakeholders have a better conversation. One of the most fascinating things I think I took away from your paper is that your model questions the very idea that in Roman growth is truly a net revenue increase, because increase enrollment obviously does increase net revenue, but also triggers other cost centers, such as needing additional faculty and facilities that can have high price points.

Yes, you know, when adding students, students need services, but first of all they need professors to teach them. And this is what was the core of the model, was that the faculty had fear that with a raw enrollment growth, quality will decline. And it took us a long time to figure out what this quality mean of education and we ended up settling at doesn't have to do with reputation, doesn't have to do with ranking. It has to do at the institution promised its students to deliver to them. And when the university fails or short to deliver what it promises, like offering courses on time, getting them to at the right term or right semester, having the faculty available for Advising and also for questions and office hours, having lab space for them to conduct experiments or new ways of teaching, all these come and amplify. So, for example, if there is a student to faculty ratio that the university has operated over the years with and suddenly changing that number, it's not just utilizing the time of the faculty more efficiently. It creates all sorts of issues. The least of it probably would be the load on the faculty. If it is a mind it it's a relevant relatively small rate of growth, but going from a class of ten to twenty or maybe to an auditorium's size, without having even tea support for them. This would be a huge issue and could up a short term policy could be, you know, let's hire more faculty quickly. But then if you hire faculty more quickly to...

...close the demand on them, are you hiring faculty with the quality or you're hiding faculty to only fill the gaps and say that a new program was created in order to entice enrollment. This program and this new faculty maybe need lab space. So adding more faculty without being able to provide lab that lab space would takes longer time to provide would have its negative consequences. So when facilities, faculty, enrollment people, and they also those who assess the quality of the education, don't talk at each other and think about that decision, then at least prioritize the issues that they have to tackle each and one by one. Would create a chaos around campus and everybody's trying to maximize or improve their performance to to the best. And you know, then it kicks a vicious cycle of trying again to up enrollment in order to meet other issues that was created from just adding more students and watch what's going to happen. It's absolutely fascinating. Did your model or simulations find any kind of ideal equilibrium in terms of what that ratio should look like between in Roman growth and new faculty and New Facility requirements that more institution should try to target in order to maximize efficient and scale will growth? So I would say there is no, you know, prescription to give here. However, every institution knows how it operates and this is probably an tacit knowledge that people have. When they make it explicit, they come to know what are their capabilities are, for example, hiring...

...faculty. How long does it take typically to higher faculty? These are like it depends people. Maybe take two years, maybe take five years or maybe a few months. So these infot data are important. How long does it take to expand facility or modify facility? These numbers are important when the number of students is increased, how many units of lowid will be added to the faculty? Is The university teaching focused or research focused, or both? How the performance is evaluated for faculty? Is it based on number of students they teach or number of papers they publish or service that they do to the university. When people start talking about all these things, they figure out the right mix, if you will. What the model helps them to do is input all these values in the model and run simulation and see what's going to happen and then run multiple scenarios with the maximum minimum values of these numbers. Look at the graduation rates and also decrease them or increase them and see whether we are creating a short term issue that will be resolved or long term issue. Are we agreeing that, you know what, we are increasing the faculty load by like ten percent, and then have agreement? Let it be discussed in within the faculty sphere, let it be discussed in other spheres as well, but when they agree on these rates or these issues, when they execute, people will be more committed to live with the consequences and even try to improve them. So the short answer to your question is no, I don't have...

...a hard or number or a certain you know, values to or practices to suggest. Accept that you know, make these things explicit, put them on the table, talk about them, make decision, go and then re evaluate. It's terrific advice. Within Roman growth, such a primary topic and challenge for for so many institutions today. I'm curious the feedback you've received to your paper and your model, both throughout the industry, but but as well specifically and wooster, how it's been received. So we were lucky when we developed a model. We had a good group of Faculty member, senior the Faculty member and from different schools and also from the administration, and sitting on the table was vice president of enrollment and marketing. So she was an instrumental to the success of building the mobile as far as also the the faculty too, and we've spent, I mean a new number of sessions where we discussed important topics and explain what's happening in marketing and what's happening in faculty load and what's happening in facilities. We did not have an inclusive team that also have people from fit, from other departments, but the prototype of the model was created to demonstrate whether we were able to find interesting dynamics, finding interesting relationships. That is worth expanding and one anecdotal story is that we were building the model, one of the Faculty member noticed that he was advocating for decreasing the faculty load by adding more faculty, but what he noticed that when adding more faculty quickly, we are adding more loads on facilities. So that solution. Despite...

...that, it helped faculty, but it's hurting somewhere else and it it comes back to faculty because they would be suffering more from space. So the point is we were able to discover new venues for discussion without even having more people on the table. The plan was to to take this further and financials to it. There is a prototype with financials. visit has to go and, you know, meet the have the financial people also involved and also look at graduate student population as well, which is not included right now. I have presented this model in several conferences and it was then published as a paper. The feedback that I got that it it is really describing, despite it's a very, very small model, the dynamics that's happening. We are advocating this model to be used in strategic planning. It's not used yet, but you know, I know that such way of doing things is different and people need to be comfortable being involved and you in using it and for that reason it's still a prototype in terms of its efficacy in influencing policies and, you know, making change through a model is just one step towards creating that conversation, but it doesn't create that change. We need agents who believe in using such tools and making them common practice in the in the board room, and you know, and it's also starts in the classroom by teaching people about it's such a great idea. Dr's any finally, what were the biggest takeaways from your...

...model simulations that other institutions should at least consider when they're looking to increase in Roman at the institution and that they can be aware of, you know, the independent factors of doing so. So I think the most important point is that improvements in one domain, say in this case in Roman growth. It could be other things as well, but it's just our focus right now, could create issues in another domain. So the the outcome that would depot toor in isolations and make decisions independently that sometimes this is inevatable. And growth decisions that are made at any time really take time him to recover from its their unintended consequences, and especially decisions, long term decisions and financial commitments to facilities constructions, when they're combined with limitation on hiring high quality faculty, could lead to negative consequences on the institution to that. These are three important points that pertains to universities. Would also make another point regarding building simulation models, that they don't have to be sophisticated and include so many variables, but it's important to show the interdependence of the relationships and also this would help stakeholders to feel comfortable using such tools and seeing them built gradually, because the essence of it is to be used for communication and exchange for views and creating scenarios that people can relate to and feel representative represented around the table. And the final point is that, you know, getting good tools or models is not sufficient to create change. It's important that we have people on the ground who are able...

...to take this and move forward with it. Touch as any. Thank you so much for joining us today. What is the best place for listeners to connect with you if they have any follow up questions or want to start a model at their own institution? So they can reach me at my email are Zeny WPI dot Etu, and also available on social media, twitter and Linkedin throut fits any so they can find me that and I'm happy to on set any question. Awesome thanks against so much for your work and your incredible additions to the enrollment growth conversation that I think are just starting. Doctor's any thanks so much for your time. Thank you for having me. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven, enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges. Downloaded today for free at Helix Educationcom. Playbook. You've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the shown itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time.

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