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What the NFL Can Teach Colleges About Enrollment Management



By Catherine Groux
Posted January 31, 2013 11:00 AM

A new report says the NFL could teach colleges about enrollment management.
A new report says the NFL could teach colleges about enrollment management.

This weekend, college students across the country will prepare to watch Super Bowl XLVII, but according to a new report, admissions officials should also tune into the game to learn a thing or two about enrollment management. In a newly released paper, the Center for American Progress argues that by emulating the NFL, colleges could control harmful competition, regain the trust of the public and highlight academic results as a true measure of quality.

Eliminating Negative Competition

Most football fans know that the NFL has very strict measures of eliminating competition that could be detrimental to the game and its member franchises. For example, in 2012 the NFL suspended 21 players due to failed tests for performance-enhancing drugs, which could include anything from amphetamines to steroids. Additionally, the NFL sets 90-player roster limits on all teams. Following the third week of preseason, this limit is reduced to 75, and by the end of the fourth week the active list must be reduced to 53 players. Then, to eliminate money as a competitive factor, the NFL also uses a salary cap. For the 2012 season, each football team was given $120.6 million.

As the Center for American Progress report states, the purpose of these regulations is to ensure that the competition between teams is focused on players' talent, rather than other factors such as available funds. This ensures that even small-market teams have an equal chance of competing with others.

Creating a 'Higher Education League'

Just as NFL teams work together to reduce negative competition to focus on athletic talent, the paper suggests colleges join forces to create a "Higher Education League" with similar goals. This league would establish rules to reduce negative competition in academia with the intention of putting a stronger focus on academic results as a measure of quality.

Currently, many students choose the wrong colleges because they are swayed by the allure of prestige, which can sometimes be skewed by misrepresented application numbers, false rankings and costs, the report states. By eliminating these often negative competitive factors, students could more clearly see which institutions will offer them the strongest academic results, while colleges could have the chance to work together to improve the quality of their instruction.

"League rules would ensure better and more relevant public information about college characteristics and college choice, clear and consistent recruitment and application guidelines, full disclosure and uniform methods in the determination and delivery of student financial assistance, educational quality measured by student learning and student readiness to realize personal and societal goals, and the nurturance of the talent in the K-12 pipeline," the paper states.

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