Firm studying how to sell KSU

Kristine Gill

Kent State has joined forces with Noel-Levitz, an enrollment management firm that will aid the university in its efforts to increase out-of-state and out-of-area enrollment, as well as enhance its marketing methods to prospective students.

The partnership comes after deliberation last spring to prepare Kent State for the anticipated decline in enrollment from students living in the Northeast Ohio area. The university asked three firms to bid for a partnership.

Pete Goldsmith, vice president of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, said Noel-Levitz emerged as the successful bidder and officially began working with the Kent State staff in the last few weeks.

It’s not that fewer students from this area are graduating from high school or that they’re choosing to attend different schools, Goldsmith said. The problem is a declining population in the Northeast Ohio area.

In order to maintain the recent increase in enrollment numbers, Kent State is looking to reach out to other populations, Goldsmith said. The university is considering hiring permanent positions in Columbus and Washington, D.C. with the sole purpose of recruiting from those areas.

“These are growth areas and are therefore prime areas for recruitment,” Goldsmith said.

Director of Admissions Nancy DellaVecchia said the university will need more resources if it wants to go further with recruitment.

Kent State will act on advice Noel-Levitz gives after analyzing the university’s methods of marketing and publication to reach a new group of prospective students.

Kent Hopkins, the project leader from Noel-Levitz in charge of the efforts at Kent State, described the approach as holistic. He said the efforts at Kent State are three-fold and include making changes to recruitment, pricing and marketing for the university. He said the firm will begin by conducting market research in Northeast Ohio as well as out of state.

“We’re looking to see how (Kent State) is perceived in the market place and how we should present Kent State to students,” he said.

Goldsmith said the efforts include expanding tuition breaks to students from 49 states instead of the 19 it previously included.

Goldsmith views the partnership with Noel-Levitz as a way to re-evaluate how things are done.

“It’s another set of eyes to look at everything to see how to do something different or better,” Goldsmith said. “When you’re doing it every day you don’t have the perspective.”

DellaVecchia agreed.

“It’s not that something is broken and needs to be fixed, or that we don’t know what we’re doing,” she said. “We’re looking for different results so we have to do things differently.”

DellaVecchia said the university, in anticipation of the population decline, is being proactive before it becomes a serious problem.

“We’re doing it to counter balance the population decline that is about to happen in Northeast Ohio,” she said. “The goals are to expand geographic diversity in the classroom as well.”

President Lefton said Noel-Levitz will also manage the communications and mailings going out to students.

“They’ll see what we send and the measure the likelihood of a response so we don’t waste money,” Lefton said.

Lefton added that the efforts are not necessarily to increase monetary benefit for the university.

“Some out-of-state students are better prepared to do work and are more likely to proceed through four years and to graduate from college,” he said.ÿ

Students said the university’s presence at events such as college days and college fairs had an impact on their awareness of Kent State and their decision to enroll.ÿ

Jessika Rice, a sophomore nutrition dietetics major from Wooster, said she didn’t recall seeing Kent State at any college fairs in her area. Instead, she heard about the university through her guidance counselor. She said a stronger university presence probably would have encouraged her to attend Kent State.

“Kent didn’t have a good reputation where I’m from,” she said.

ÿLovell Thomas, a sophomore computer animation and design major from Atlanta, said he heard about Kent State through searches he did online.

“I came because of my major,” he said. “I have family in Ohio, and Kent is a Division I school, and colleges in Georgia didn’t have my major.”

Hopkins said Noel-Levitz currently works with 170 colleges. Work with Kent State will continue for the next three years, and Goldsmith said it costs the university $516,000. Their first visit was on September 20. More visits are scheduled for October 30 and November 1.

“The project has several phases and that number might be tested as the project unfolds,” he said.

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