Firm recognizes trends to benefit enrollment

Kristine Gill

Kent State is digging up data on recent enrollment trends for assessment by Noel-Levitz, the firm hired to help increase enrollment and improve marketing methods to students.

Pete Goldsmith, vice president of enrollment management and student affairs, said the data has to be gathered and repackaged for the firm’s next visit in December.

Kent Hopkins, the project leader from Noel-Levitz, said the requested data concerns graduate, undergraduate and international students.

“It’s at least three years worth of data with trends and behaviors in all three areas; where they initially enroll, what programs and colleges they enroll in, and their ability levels from high school or community college,” he said.

Consultants from Noel-Levitz specializing in each of the three groups met with graduate undergraduate, and international students during their recent three-day visit to Kent State at the end of October.

“It’s important to talk to people who are going through the college choice decisions, recruitment programs, and visits, and seeing the publications,” Hopkins said, adding it is important to understand how does a student comes to choose a university such as Kent State.

“We’re in the discovery stage,” Hopkins said. “We’re learning how Kent State goes about its business of enrollment.”

Hopkins said usually at this point in a partnership with a university, the data collection phase is complete and action is already being taken based on the findings. Kent State’s process for selecting Noel-Levitz delayed that progress.

“Basically (Kent State is) bound by state law and by university rules and procedures to do public bids for any products over $25,000 or services over $50,000,” said Larry McWilliams, assistant manager for the Procurement Department.

Goldsmith said the contract with Noel-Levitz cost the university $516,000.

McWilliams said companies are given requests for proposal, which are published documents sent to vendors specifying the product or service Kent State is looking for. Once the vendors have reviewed the request they are asked to respond with a bid by a given date.

“We like to give people generally a week or so to look at things, then we come together and we hash things out,” McWilliams said. “After that we may have a short list of vendors that most meet the criteria come in to do presentations.”

A committee of staff members to be involved with the potential partners reviewed the presentations. The committee included Goldsmith and heads of the registrar, admissions and financial aid offices.

The process began in June and was completed when a letter of intent was sent to Noel-Levitz on Sept. 4 saying that Kent State wanted to develop a contract.

“It’s a fair and public way of getting people to bid on a certain project,” McWilliams said. “The scope of this is pretty important, and we know the university is going to be investing money in it, and we want to make sure it’s a good choice.”

Hopkins said plans of action can be discussed once the firm has reviewed the collected data.

“The next step is for Kent State to step back and see how would they like to proceed,” he said. “There will be five visits between January and August of 2008 where (a consultant) will come back with specific agendas and a written student enrollment plan.”

Goldsmith said he is pleased with the firm’s progress so far.

“They’re very good people, and they’re real focused,” he said.

Contact student affairs reporter Kristine Gill at [email protected].