Graduate Enrollment: Centralized vs. Decentralized Systems

Adam Parker Feb 22, 2024 Adam Parker Client Solutions Specialist Persona The Innovative and Curious Globetrotter

Today’s graduate enrollment management landscape is incredibly challenging. The industry is facing a wide variety of intersecting issues—budget shortfalls, more competition than ever, changing market dynamics, a decline in test takers, and increased consumer privacy and data protection. All these challenges mean it’s essential to reconsider and weigh the pros and cons of how things are done on your campus. One of the biggest decisions is whether or not to centralize or decentralize your graduate marketing efforts.

Read more about trends in Higher Education Marketing.

Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Headed

Historically, graduate enrollment management is a decentralized process. Graduate enrollment is so varied and unique from other types of enrollment, that it made sense for it to be separate from the rest of marketing. However, with increasing sophistication needed to compete for students and looming demographic concerns, centralized graduate enrollment offers an alternative strategy to combine resources and accomplish goals as a team. 

So, how do you decide whether centralized or decentralized graduate enrollment management is for you? Weigh the pros and cons.

Centralized Processes


  1. Brand Consistency. With one team working on one goal, maintaining brand consistency and messaging continuity is much easier and helps build unified brand awareness.
  2. Reduced Competition. Centralization helps eliminate competition with AdWord purchases, preventing different areas of campus from bidding against each other.
  3. Data Visibility. With all your data in one place, it provides the ability to compare month-over-month and year-over-year metrics, offering visibility into the entire market to align strategies effectively.
  4. Budget Alignment. A high tide lifts all boats. A central budget supports institutional brand awareness tactics and overall graduate capabilities, fostering conversation, consensus, and a collaborative approach. 
  5. Website Personalization. Centralized processes enable custom solutions such as Carnegie Clarity website personalization tactics to supplement paid media campaigns and CRM data, enhancing user experiences based on program interests.


  1. Budget Inequality: Unequal budgets among schools can limit marketing optimization potential, leading to challenges in fair competition. Plus, it’s a tale as old as time: teams don’t always play well in a sandbox. 
  2. Communication Challenges: Because there are so many decision-makers, streamlining communication is key. Effective communication requires trust and tough choices about who gets a seat at the table.


Decentralized Processes


  1. Autonomy. Individual graduate schools have autonomy in making decisions tailored to their specific needs, such as focusing on specific programs and choosing partners/vendors. 
  2. Streamlined Decision-Making. With fewer decision-makers, creative review and approval processes are often streamlined.
  3. Enrollment Control. Decentralization provides direct control over enrollment goals, allowing close monitoring of trends, goals, and program-specific metrics.
  4. Budget Autonomy. Different revenue models create diverse revenue-generation requirements. Decentralized processes allow schools to allocate budgets to marketing as needed. 


  1. Brand Inconsistency. Without a single creative vision, inconsistent brand messaging can create a disjointed prospective student user experience. 
  2. Keyword Competition: Lack of transparency around keyword bidding strategies may increase customer acquisition costs and overall marketing spending.
  3. Administrative Bloat: Decentralization can result in increased administrative overhead and technology costs. Is it just me or do Slate captains seem to be the most valuable members of the team in this day and age?
  4. Lack of Strategy Oversight: Without a bird’s eye view of things, leadership may end up fighting for resources and lack clarity in comprehensive institutional goals. 


The Takeaway

Navigating the decision between centralized and decentralized approaches requires careful consideration of these pros and cons. Deciding which to use should come after careful thought and collaboration between campus decision-makers. 

Looking for support in your graduate marketing and enrollment efforts? Our team of experts is here to help. Start a conversation today.

Never miss an update.