Helping students succeed

Kim Brown

Marketing based on student input geared toward retention, enrollment

Consider a student’s reasoning behind choosing Kent State for a college education.

Maybe it is for a specific area such as nursing, fashion, architecture or journalism. Maybe choosing Kent State is an ideal distance from home. Maybe it is for friends, organizations, scholarships or the size of the campus. Or maybe it is even because of alumni relatives.

Whichever reason a student decides to choose Kent State, it means one important focus for student enrollment and recruitment – how to help students succeed.

Undergraduate student enrollment and recruitment involves several departments and individuals making decisions with the idea of increasing student numbers. Marketing departments are now using potential and current student input to develop these recruitment plans and processes.

“We want to grow in enrollment. We want to maintain a viable and vital campus community,” Pete Goldsmith, vice president of enrollment management and student affairs, said. “It’s really a matter of creating a class that will help the institution further its goals.”

Goldsmith said the process begins with buying lists of prospective high school students based on geography, ability level and intended major. Admissions and financial aid then visit high school counselors to help further Kent State’s recruitment.

“There are places and people that don’t know the strong programs that we have and what we’re doing,” Conni Dubick, student financial aid associate director, said. “That’s why any university has to market what their strengths are.”

Goldsmith said high school recruitment affects the overall process because prospective students help marketing departments fit a student’s educational needs.

“I want them to visit. I want them to talk with other students. I want them to talk about the campus and kind of imagine themselves at Kent State,” he said. “If they can do that, then I think they will be very happy here. If for whatever reason they can’t, then they’ve learned something about the kind of place they need to be, and we want to help them do that.”

Provost Robert Frank said enrollment and recruitment departments look at students who choose Kent State and students who choose another college for future planning strategies.

“We encourage people to look at each step carefully and identify where we might have processes that might not work as well as they should,” he said.

Besides prospective students impacting the marketing plans, current students also factor in the planning equation.

Frank said the university uses student input, workgroups and satisfaction surveys to change present processes and areas within the campus to allow more educational and environmental success. Past student surveys have included transportation, education and major and campus dining input.

Effective marketing

A large factor in altering current feedback is using a consulting firm to change marketing processes.

Noel-Levitz was hired by Kent State last year to consult and coordinate in undergraduate, transfer, international, summer and graduate students. The firm, which has a four-year contract with Kent State, works with the marketing department for student recruitment and retention.

“They’ve done a very advanced analysis of who our students are, where they’re coming from, what they’re interested in,” Frank said. “We’ve really studied our students through them and some of that is driving our marketing to identify what kinds of students we want to reach.”

Noel-Levitz consults with around 2,000 colleges nationwide to help improve enrollment, marketing and student success. Specific plans and goals are set based on campus experience with students, according to the Noel-Levitz Web site.

Kent State, in coordination with Noel-Levitz, is capable of modifying campus colleges, departments and programs for future success in recruitment and retention, Goldsmith said.

“They’re thinking about this all the time, and they’re kind of on the cutting edge of trends,” Goldsmith said. “This is what they do so they help us get better at what we need to do.”

Targeted research

Another factor affecting student enrollment, marketing and recruitment is the Research, Planning and Institutional Effectiveness department.

“We’re helping meet the students where they’re at and provide them the tools to succeed,” Wayne Schneider, senior institutional research information officer, said .

RPIE works toward enhancing programs to improve the university. The institution provides data analysis based on student trends to help individual students and campus colleges and departments succeed through development and change, Schneider said.

“I think our goal is to be able to provide as much information, planning information and strategic information to the deans and colleges and provost office because ultimately, they’re the ones who make the academic decisions,” Sally Kandel, RPIE associate vice president, said. “Every college has a series of issues unique to them, and it’s not only looking at students but looking at what the issues are in each college or program.”

Goldsmith said the Web is becoming more important in Kent State’s marketing change. He said he wants people to recognize the university when students search online. He said the traditional uses of radio and television continue to be promoting tools for the school, but even “word of mouth” can equally influence a student’s college decision.

But despite continued marketing improvements and enrollment numbers, Goldsmith said obstacles always affect enrollment and recruitment.

“There are always things out there in the universe that are going to impact enrollment or ability to recruit,” he said.

He said even looking at the past six months with the changing credit and student loans decline and recent Northern Illinois University shooting are some factors affecting student and parent decisions.

However, achieving student success and positive change will remain whether or not a student chooses Kent State, Frank said.

Contact student affairs reporter Kim Brown at [email protected].