Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Support independent student journalism. Support independent student journalism. Support independent student journalism.
The Dartmouth
June 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Coffin appointed as admissions vice provost

When the College announced Lee Coffin as the new vice provost for enrollment and dean of admissions and financial aid last week, Coffin — a first-generation college student — said he called his father and thanked him for the sacrifices his parents made to allow him to go to college.

“It changed my life,” he said.

Coffin graduated from Trinity College and for the past 13 years has served as the dean of undergraduate admissions and enrollment management at Tufts University.

Coffin said that his own experience as a first generation college student informs his job in enrollment and admissions.

“Those pieces of who I am come through in conversations I have about financial aid policy, work study, loans and financing higher ed,” he said. “I think it gives me credibility when I talk to trustees and faculty about [resource management].”

Coffin said that during his 13-year-tenure at Tufts, applications increased 37 percent and the last few years saw record high numbers of applicants. He said the Tufts admissions office was strategic in their data analysis to find out where the university was strong and where they could grow. Coffin also said that in his time at Tufts, the university gained a stronger presence on the West Coast, shifted towards a mainly online recruitment strategy and the admission rate decreased from 27 to 16 percent.

He said he will continue to keep the applicant voice central to the admissions process.

“As the volume goes up, how do you make sure the narrative of each student is part of the conversation as you shape a class?” he said.

His position as both vice provost for enrollment and dean of admissions and financial aid, will be connected to the work of student affairs, enrollment, institutional research and athletics in “a more macro context,” he said. His work will also reflect elements of the traditional role of dean of admissions. Coffin added that he actually asked that the dean of admissions and financial aid be a part of his role since “it’s been my professional work for over 20 years.”

“I think it really important to have this person be present in the day to day workings of the admissions and financial aid staff both to lead it and understand what’s happening at the grass roots.”

University of California, Los Angeles education professor Patricia McDonough said Coffin’s position is likely tied to a new concept in admissions known as “enrollment management.”

She said that enrollment management is a way to ensure students’ success in college. The concept focuses not just on getting people in the door but coming out the other end successfully.

McDonough added that the person who oversees enrollment management usually works higher up in the administration, and is tasked with asking the questions, “Are we even successful at getting [students] in, are we putting out the right financial aid packages, are we loosing students [to other institutions]?”

McDonough said that she thinks the position is necessary.

“I think it’s an important thing to do because in too many institutions today, we admit students who may be at great risk of rapidly going out the door or may not have an adequately successful negotiations with the financial aid office,” she said.

Coffin said he was attracted to the position partially because Dartmouth is need-blind and because there was an opportunity to work at an NCAA Division 1 college that had an undergraduate experience connected to its graduate schools.

“I see my job [like] I’m a chief storyteller,” Coffin said. “How do I rep the work of Dartmouth faculty and students to an external community that has high aspirations for academic excellence?”

He said that his first-year project will likely be participating in that conversation, identifying the authentic Dartmouth story and finding creative ways to communicate that to potential applicants and parents.

“I think my first several months are going to be dipping into the institutional narrative,” he said. “I know there are already conversations with trustees about what narrative Dartmouth wants to be.”

Coffin said he wants to use position as dean of admissions and financial aid as a way of transparently talking to families about what matters in admissions and financial aid.

“Admissions in the Ivy League is hyper-competitive and students and their parents are anxious about admissions and what’s required,” he said. “In my experience, those families who come from lower socioeconomics are intimated by the price tag without realizing that the financial aid will make the education not only affordable but remarkably so.”

He noted he also looks forward to digging into the data to understand what kind of people are coming to the College and identifying the types of students who are not attending. He added that a significant change in the college admissions process is the increase in international applicants. He said that when he started at Tufts, the majority of the application pool was American.

“I think the biggest change I’ve witnessed is the rise of social media as a piece as the admissions process,” Coffin said. “Websites today are much more robust than they were ten years ago and they’ve opened the conversation to parts of the world where we weren’t seeing applicants.”

Dean of the College Rebecca Biron, who lead the search committee for the new enrollment, admissions and financial aid position, wrote in an email that Coffin proved his ability to navigate the rapidly changing profession of admissions in higher education. She added that Coffin understands data-driven methods of identifying and recruiting students and is committed to collaborating with partners across the College to ensure students’ success throughout their careers at Dartmouth.

Amanda Zhou

See's Amanda's Twitter

Amanda Zhou is a junior at Dartmouth College originally from Brookline,  Massachusetts. She’s previously been the associate managing editor, health and wellness beat writer at the Dartmouth and interned at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this Fall. She is pursuing a major in quantitative social science and a minor in public policy. At  college, she edits the campus newspaper, serves on the campus EMS squad and lives in the sustainable living center. After graduation, she is interested in a career in journalism or data analysis. In her spare time, she can be found running, cooking or trying to rock climb.