Enrollment: Pressures & Promise

At Convocation last month I thanked our recruiters in the Admissions Office for their hard work as we anticipated the arrival of the Class  of 2019.  As you now know, our new student recruitment has been especially strong this year, with:

  • a 6% increase in new students;
  • our largest number of online courses ever; and
  • more students from beyond the region.

Breaking those numbers down further, the beginning freshman number increased by 215 students over last year, so we can see some very positive signs of new growth in terms of Middle Georgia State’s appeal to future generations.  This increase enabled us to grow our residential population in Cochran.

There is much to be excited about, but we still face considerable enrollment challenges.  We have seen an overall drop in enrollment by about 275 students, down now to about 7,660 students.  This represents a headcount drop of  3.3%, and a credit hour drop of 2.7% on last year’s 2014 Fall census data.  This latter figure likely drives our future State Appropriations allocation, so the credit count drop will potentially negatively affect our State financial allocation next year and beyond.  Our final Census data will be submitted to the USG in early October, and shared by Dr. Rowland with the campus at that time.

How can we counteract the reality of downward pressure on our enrollment?  Firstly, it is essential to realize that the USG measures credit hour production for its member institutions across Fall, Spring and Summer sessions.  The takeaway then is obvious.  New and returning student enrollment in Spring 2016 is critical.  We need to continue to focus on new student recruitment, especially now within our adult programs and anticipated new graduate programs, and we need to mentor, guide, support and advise current students into spring courses that will assist their progression and their return.  That task falls on us all—faculty and staff.  Its importance cannot be overstated.

To support our recruitment and retention effort:

  • I shall ask the Provost and Vice President for Enrollment Management to convene their division leaders, such as Deans, Chairs and Directors, to discuss and develop a campaign for immediate Spring enrollment efforts;
  • I shall bring in external experts to meet with us, analyze our data and processes, and advise on ways of creating a comprehensive enrollment strategy that reflects our diversified programming across five campuses; and
  • Finally, after the site visit from our accrediting body later this month, I shall engage in listening to the campus on your ideas for enrollment.  Each of us daily interacts with students and knows in those interactions which students succeed and which do not.  Those interactions can give us insight into how we can improve our enrollment.

These tasks cannot wait, they need us all to embrace them now, so that our Spring enrollment is maximized.

Put simply, we are an institution that needs to reverse a recent multi-year decline in enrollment.  We have an outstanding mission and vision, and a new status as a University.  We have a breadth of excellent, innovative academic products. We have state University admission standards, but still may admit other students via our University College.  In short, we have a very powerful presence in the educational marketplace.  Recently we have seen considerable interest and enrollment from new students.  Now we need to devote our collective effort to ensuring that continuation of recruitment, and deploying effective ways of retaining, progressing and graduating students across our academic programs and divisions.