IN THE SPOTLIGHT
New recruitment strategies help propel fall enrollment
As the country continues to contend with the economic slump, its effect on families posed a big concern for college admission offices across the country. Director of CU-Boulder Admissions Kevin MacLennan called the uncertainty that surrounded expectations for this year’s enrollment “unprecedented in our recent history.”
“Every year college admission gets more and more competitive, and when you bring in the elements of the economy it makes it tougher for families to find the money,” said MacLennan, a CU admissions staff member since 1992. “Families had to reshape some of their college plans, and we didn’t know what the outcome would be.”
Despite the challenges, the admissions office’s new recruitment strategies helped produce an all-time high in total enrollment. Fall 2009 census figures showed 30,196 degree-seeking students are enrolled at CU-Boulder, an increase of 1.6 percent (487 students) over last year’s previous record. And for university officials, the fall enrollment numbers confirm the perceived value that a CU education holds.
CU Admissions begins each year with a list of about 120,000 prospective high school seniors who have expressed some type of interest in the campus. A team of administrators, faculty, staff, and students began working with this year’s group September 2008, utilizing a three-tiered recruitment strategy that consists of Web-based communication, printed materials and publications, and personal visits. Representatives visit 700 to 800 high schools across Colorado and nearly 40 other states during the recruiting season. “The idea is encouraging students to not only apply but to visit the campus as well and to start to build a stronger connection,” MacLennan said.
The office has amplified its outreach efforts as well, now with the capability of working with 250,000 students grades nine to 12. CU recently crafted unique recruitment plans for each grade level, helping high school students establish a pathway to higher education at a younger age. “We’re starting to see the benefits of building a longer relationship,” MacLennan said. “Our hope is that by the time they’re seniors, they really feel comfortable about CU, which makes the transition easier.” And connecting with potential students these days also requires online accessibility, which drove CU Admissions to create its own Facebook and Twitter pages.
MacLennan believes the university is starting to see the results of this new recruitment era, evidenced by this year’s enrollment figures. While CU saw a drop in new freshmen from a record 5,855 in 2008 to 5,519 this year, the admissions director called the size of the freshmen class “phenomenal,” given the challenges posed by the current recession. On the other hand, the number of out-of-state freshmen fell by 17 percent, which could be the result of more students deciding to stay closer to home because of the economy, MacLennan said.
The results also show key gains in the total number of graduate students, as well as undergraduate and graduate students of color. Total graduate enrollment increased by 159 students, from 4,629 to 4,788. Overall, ethnic minorities comprise 15.1 percent (3,832 students) of undergraduates, compared to 14.9 percent in 2008. In fact, all undergraduate ethnic group numbers are higher than 2008, with a 3 percent increase in minority enrollment compared to a 1 percent for non-minority. The number of ethnic minority graduate students is also the highest ever, at 520—29 more than last year and 22 more than the previous high, set in 1995.
MacLennan said his office sets very strong goals to achieve the most diverse and inclusive class possible from any and all aspects, ranging from ethnicity to geographic location to academic interest. “We’re extremely happy that the numbers continue to go up, but we’re not satisfied,” MacLennan said. “To be a world class institution, it’s incumbent upon us to recruit a class that allows the students to appreciate their peers’ similarities and differences. It’s important that students have the opportunity to learn from other people who will be a big part of their lives in the global work force.”
To do this, CU Admissions will continue to expand its outreach efforts to connect with as many students as possible and ensure that the top students in Colorado and throughout the country have the university on their radar. “We want to have as many qualified applicants as we can. This allows us to become more selective with the type of student we accept, which increases the academic credentials of a class,” MacLennan said.
“Our goal is to keep increasing the value of a CU degree and get the most qualified and inclusive student body we can to create the best campus environment possible, and we’ve got a great team of people across campus dedicated to this,” he said.
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