An Interdependence Model

©2001 Joetta R. Bradica

reedited 1/24/09


Garlene Penn (1999) indicates that higher education has been significantly impacted by two important situations during the 80s and 90s. One situation was caused by the decline in the number of students graduating from high school who were eligible and interested in attending postsecondary education. During a scarcity the market responds with unique ways to maintain viability. Such was the case in higher education when student numbers declined and the bottom line of colleges and universities was affected.

The second situation that impacted higher education during the last twenty years was the fraud and lack of accountability that eroded the public trust in all types of institutions of higher education. Legislators responded to the concerns of their constituents by calling for greater accountability, creating performance based funding and mandating statistics reporting by colleges and universities according to Hartle (1994).

In reaction to these situations that created a buyer's market, colleges and universities responded by establishing the model of enrollment management. Hossler, Bean and Associates (1990 p.5) define enrollment management as an organizational concept and set of systematic activities whose purpose is to manage student enrollment. This paper will address the goals of enrollment management and consider the development of enrollment management as it relates to internal and external interdependence.


Jeffrey Pfeffer and Jerry Salancik (1975) define interdependence as:

Any event that depends on more than a single causal agent is an outcome based on interdependent agents.... interdependence exists whenever one actor does not entirely control all of the conditions necessary for the achievement of an action or for obtaining the outcome desired from the action. (p.40)

Pfeffer (1992) indicates that interdependence results from numerous situations, but there is a direct correlation between the scarcity or poor distribution of resources and the nature and amount of interdependence within an organization. Another factor in determining interdependence according to Pfeffer is the necessity of obtaining the cooperation of others within the organization in order to meet goals and deadlines. He also indicates that conflict and disagreements do not necessarily occur in the establishments of goals, but in the ways and means necessary to accomplish such goals. Because of this conflict, power and influence are major players in arenas of interdependence. It is in the accomplishment of goals that resources are crucial. The abundance or lack of resources determines the amount of power that is needed to assure that goals are achieved. Since influence is related to the concept of cooperation, influence is a vital characteristic of leadership within an organization where interdependence is necessary to attain goals. Those who need to be interdependent must be willing to do what is necessary to meet the goals of the organization. Influence is vital if there are those who are not willing to cooperate and do what they are told to do. (See Rozycki, 2004)

Other factors that appear to help those within an organization to work together are clear objectives, competition and external threats. Clear objectives reduce ambiguity and thus reduce conflict as long as the objectives are agreed upon. External factors such as threats and competition in a scarce market promote interdependence and cooperation. These conditions cause those who work within the organization to focus upon a holistic approach rather than on what benefits a singular work unit. It is also imperative that patterns of dependence and interdependence be understood in order that an effective course of action can be established in meeting goals.

Interdependence can be perceived from an internal viewpoint, such as units within an organization dependant upon one another to reach organizational goals. Or from an external viewpoint, which is an organization's dependence upon external social, political and economic forces. In the 20th century colleges and universities, because of their increased accountability to their various constituencies, have experienced an increasing external interdependence according to Kanter, Gamson and London (1997). The increasing need to respond to outside forces has in some institutions diluted the structure of campus governance organization. Outside agencies have increased their power over colleges and universities by requiring justification of operations in order to maintain governmental funding. "Interdependence threatens the management of colleges and universities because external agencies, especially those in the political sector, have both the authority and the resources to dictate the terms by which those institutions function." (Kanter, Gamson, London, 1997, p. 17). Kanter, Gamson and London are quick to point out that the elite, private, independent universities, such as Harvard, are somewhat protected from interference from outside forces.

Interdependence theory has many facets. We have considered internal and external interdependence within institutions of higher education. Another aspect of interdependence theory, competitive interdependence, can also be considered with regard to enrollment in colleges and universities. Pfeffer (1982) defines a competitive relationship as two organizations living off the same resource pool. He explains that in this relationship, the resources received by an institution, directly affect its ability to achieve goals and may even affect its survival. Student enrollment is an integral part of generating resources because of the benefit colleges receive from tuition charges. Thus offices concerned with student enrollment need to work together to provide student services so that enrollment is preserved. Schein (1992) asserts that survival is affected by an organization's assumption about its core mission and basic ftinctions as related to environmental realities. Some institutions when faced with a survival crisis in the 1970s, responded with an enrollment management model that relied upon the internal, external and competitive theories of interdependence.

Enrollment Management

Beginning in the 1890s higher education experienced significant enrollment gains over the next eighty-five years. During this period admission offices did not see a need to be aware of what happened to the student once the admission process was completed. After the student enrolled, they felt that theirjob was finished. There was no need to concern themselves with academic and career advising, retention and student services.

During a scarcity however, competitors within a market respond with unique ways to maintain viability. Such was the case in higher education in the 80s and 90s according to Garlene Penn (1999). During these decades, higher education saw a decline in the number of students graduating from high school who were eligible and interested in attending postsecondary education. Also during this time fraud and lack of accountability eroded the public trust in all types of institutions of higher education. Legislators listened to their constituents and responded by calling for greater accountability, creating performance based funding and mandating statistics reporting (Hartle 1994). Institutions of higher education responded by developing the organizational concept of enrollment management.

Hossler, Bean and Associates (1990 p.5) characterize enrollment management as an organizational concept that leads to a set of systematic activities whose purpose is to manage student enrollment. Models can range from a committee with representatives from various student services units within the institution to a department headed by an enrollment management professional. It is the later model that has been followed by many private and public colleges and universities. The enrollment management professional must posses a diverse repertoire of skills. This person must remain current on state and federal legislation, be able to discuss funding allocations and know how to assess the public's opinion regarding higher education. Penn (1999) stresses that an enrollment manager must posses the ability to influence, communicate, persuade, lobby, bargain with others, as well as secure funding for marketing strategies and departmental needs. Thus the enrollment manager is responsible for interaction with external constituencies such as the general public and state and national legislators. This person must also develop a cooperative relationship with many of the offices outside his department on a college campus. The offices of admission, financial aid, registration, academic advising and student accounts play a cooperative role in the success of maintaining an enrollment that will allow the institution the fiscal level necessary to meet its goals.

It is a major objective of the department of enrollment management to fend off criticism of the college or university by students, parents and government agencies who make decisions about financial appropriations according to Alfred and Weissman (1988). Frank Kemerer (1985) views enrollment management from a holistic approach is comprised of a variety of interdependent activities such as clarification of the institution's mission, long-range planning, academic program development, marketing, recruitment, retention and career planning. This holistic approach requires the cooperation of all levels of campus personnel from the president to the faculty, staff and the maintenance department. Some institutions have developed a $20,000 walk: a path through the campus that showcases to visitors and perspective students its most desirable features in a pristine setting. Those in charge of maintenance must fastidiously maintain this path in order to portray the organization's marketable image. Kreutner and Godfrey (1981) emphasize that the enrollment management function must be viewed as a 'concept," a "process," and an "outcome." With buy in from all levels within the organization, sufficient enrollment levels can be maintained in order to preserve the institution's financial stability. According to Clayton Smith (2000), colleges and universities have adopted enrollment management strategies that call for increased coordination between campus constituencies. Such strategies attempt to coordinate and monitor the recruitment and retention programs and thus successfully influence student enrollment. He suggests that the intentional coordination of programs and services allow an institution to be more responsive to students and their educational needs. Again it requires the interdependence and cooperation of those who work most closely with student needs to maintain the policies and procedures to insure sufficient enrollment for organizational success.


The major players in the enrollment management model enhance their internal interdependence through cross training, communication and cooperation. The necessary implementation of the enrollment management model has changed the way some colleges and universities approach the delivery of student services. Many colleges and universities have been able to prosper and to feel competent in their ability to meet the challenges of the 2lst century through appropriate planning and evaluation, institutionwide interdependence, well-prepared professionals and adequate fiscal resources due in many cases to the implementation of the enrollment management model according to Garlene Penn (1999). Offices and individuals across the higher education system realize that interdependence, as it relates to enrollment goals, is essential to the overall health, continued vitality and success of their institution. David Borus (1995) sums up the huge responsibility of the enrollment management department. He indicates that stability and predictability of enrollment figures is critically dependent upon the agreement of goals; the identification of major players in achieving these goals; the partnerships necessary to eliminate wasteful activities; and the coherence of programs and cohesion of operations.


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