Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Education/Higher Education PhD

First Advisor

Katalin Szelényi

Second Advisor

Jay Dee

Third Advisor

Michael Nguyen


The study addresses the widening income and racial access gap in higher education resulting from enrollment management teams’ operationalization of academic capitalism. The study focuses on the local, micro level, emphasizing how enrollment management leadership teams make sense of enrollment management, recognizing that enrollment management and the work of enrollment management stakeholders exist within an organizational space encompassing the values of both public good and academic capitalism. Using a case study methodology and critical sensemaking theory, the research explored how academic capitalism and values of the public good shaped enrollment management leadership teams’ sensemaking and sensegiving as they enacted decisions, actions, and practices to recruit and admit students. The main conclusion includes the critical role of the EMLTs and its members’ agency in public good enactments, especially driving the sensemaking process, and a more nuanced and complicated picture between academic capitalism and values of the public good in enrollment management. The study is the first to demonstrate that academic capitalism and the public good can coexist and overlap, in various ways, within the field of enrollment management despite existing literature’s overwhelming characterization of enrollment management as firmly existing within the space of academic capitalism. Recommendations for colleges and universities include leveraging capitalist tools to drive a public good agenda; using predictive data analytics to have a measured approach to increase access; balancing the use of tuition discounting; investing in hiring organizational actors who can operate with contradictory logics and share public good values; developing key public good metrics; diversifying revenue streams; and for wealthy institutions to be bold in their public good enactments.