Inside Holy Cross Enrollment Management’s Efforts to Increase Access and Affordability

Man poses outside for a portrait picture.

Cornell B. LeSane II, vice president for enrollment management, details some of the College’s initiatives in building a diverse student body.

As the inaugural vice president for enrollment management, one of the goals of Cornell B. LeSane II is spearheading initiatives to make the College of the Holy Cross affordable and accessible to students from diverse backgrounds.

Since his arrival in January 2021, he has initiated and strengthened partnerships with QuestBridge, a national organization that works with high-academic, low-income students across the country, and several community-based organizations that help high-achieving students navigate the college search process. Today, the College announced another step forward in access and affordability, partnering with the Schuler Education Foundation via a $20 million matching grant to expand the financial aid support of low-income students and students with undocumented status.  

Your position is new to the College. Would you explain what enrollment management is? 

Simply put, enrollment management is a culmination of strategic and operational management techniques designed to assist in shaping a college’s overall enrollment, while working toward a key objective — attract, recruit and retain an academically talented and diverse student body. This is typically achieved by developing and utilizing various methods, including data-driven processes and pragmatic initiatives to meet institutional priorities. Successful enrollment management requires the ability to adapt, make proactive decisions and be prepared for changing landscapes. Enrollment management also consists of facilitating collaborations among various campus departments to better assist students from admission to graduation.

The enrollment team at Holy Cross is composed of the offices of admission and financial aid, and I believe they are well-positioned to meet the challenges ahead and continue to achieve institutional priorities. 

What are some new initiatives underway in your office? 

Keeping an eye on the future, we continue to pursue new initiatives to build on and expand the College’s success. A sampling includes the QuestBridge partnership, Student Search, digital marketing, application fee waivers for Worcester Public Schools, targeted on-campus events for high school counselors and students, a new prospective student portal, increased transparency in financial aid and outreach efforts, and focused efforts to build stronger collaborations with community-based organizations (CBOs).

As one of my mentors used to say, we have to continue to find new and innovative ways to do old jobs. The enrollment team is doing exactly that. 

Increasing access and affordability for students have been longstanding goals of the College. What is Holy Cross doing to attract a more diverse student body?

To quote Rev. John Brooks, S.J., ’49, the 29th president of the College, "Any college that wants to stay relevant and in the top tier has to reach out to every group of future leaders."

Increased transparency in financial aid has been a priority for the enrollment team, and we are excited about some of our announcements during the past year. For instance, we have been highlighting how we are one of a select group of colleges (fewer than 100 total) that meets 100% of each admitted student’s demonstrated financial need. This is something we should be extremely proud of as an institution and community, and must be sure prospective families are aware.

While we are certainly in great company, we also realize that families don’t always know what meeting demonstrated financial need means. As a result, we now display grant ranges online based on family income, and students whose families have a total income of $75,000 or less, and reasonable assets, will receive a full tuition grant. We will also waive the College Scholarship Service Profile for families meeting certain income and asset thresholds.

Partnering with QuestBridge will help combat anticipated projections of declining high school graduates, expand our inquiry and applicant pool, and connect us with a more diverse cohort of high-achieving, low-income students who may not be as familiar with Holy Cross. Undoubtedly, this partnership will assist in expanding our pipeline by casting a wider geographic footprint.

While many Holy Cross students hail from the northeast, how is your office raising Holy Cross' profile nationally as a destination for students across the U.S.?

Holy Cross is already raising its national profile as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the nation. Holy Cross' distinguished reputation for excellence and ability to attract outstanding students has helped the College welcome the largest incoming class in the school’s 179-year history. The College admitted fewer students than in 2021, but saw a greater percentage of those students choose Holy Cross, resulting in a class that is approximately 10% larger than last year. This speaks directly to the dynamic educational experience Holy Cross provides and the value families place on it. With this in mind, our job is to continue to expand and broaden the reach of Holy Cross.

Though some of our new endeavors will certainly help to raise Holy Cross’ national profile even more, one of the tried-and-true methods will continue to be visiting high schools and community-based organizations throughout the country and abroad. We have a great team of professionals who are wonderful ambassadors for the College and bring a wealth of experiences, diverse perspectives and a passion for what they do. Of course, we’ll continue to connect with high schools and students in our backyard, but the goal is to introduce Holy Cross to a new cohort of schools and students, who may not otherwise know us or consider applying. It's going to be a busy recruitment season, as we continue to return to the more traditional in-person visits while continuing to offer a robust assortment of virtual programming. Although it’ll be a significant lift for the team managing both in-person and virtual programming throughout the year, this level of access and accessibility is key to providing opportunities for all prospective students and families.