Managing Enrollment

Students come to George Mason University 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.

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 Effectiveness and Planning reports enrollment numbers (preliminary and official), which can help you track your department’s numbers during registration and drop- and add-periods.

Please see the Office of the Provost webpage for comprehensive information about Enrollment Management.

The College of Education and Human Development hosts an academic advising session for undergraduates 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.