Overall regional campus enrollment on the climb

Morgan Day

Choosing a regional campus or small town university over an Ivy League school might not be so far-fetched.

“Overall, there has been a movement toward students considering career choices and not campus choices,” said Anthony Underwood, director of enrollment management and student services at the Salem and East Liverpool campuses.

He said students are factoring in cost and travel time when choosing a university and considering whether their career choice is more important than their college experience.

“There was a story in Time talking about how students are walking away from big players like Harvard because that’s not the experience they want,” he said.

The reasons for choosing a regional campus may be up in the air, but one thing’s certain: The overall regional campus enrollment rates are on a steady increase.

“We are marketing more aggressively than we’ve done in the past,” Underwood said, adding that the two campuses are trying to recruit from as far away as Alliance and Steubenville and looking at cooperative agreements with schools in Pennsylvania.

The Tuscarawas campus, on the other hand, is thinking in terms of “strategic initiatives,” said Denise Testa, director of enrollment management and student services. The campus identified three campus-wide initiatives: the addition of new programs, the ability to identify new student markets and the capability to promote student success.

“People on the campus believe that if we follow through with these certain initiatives, it will help our campus be successful,” Testa said.

The Tuscarawas campus is now the second largest Kent State regional campus, surpassing Trumbull. Testa said there’s no competition between campuses, only a competition with itself to improve and grow each year.

“We’re really excited that we’ve had a banner year, but that’s just the beginning,” Testa said. “The work has just begun.”

Last year, the campus developed broad-based representative groups, which consist of faculty, staff and sometimes students. These task forces worked to improve the orientation classes and student success as well as develop new programs.

Campus deans decide on the targeted enrollment after discussions between enrollment managers, faculty and staff, said Shirley Barton, executive dean for regional campuses.

“The dean doesn’t look into his crystal ball and pick a number,” Barton said. “It’s usually based on all the data that’s available as well as what they know about what’s happening in their communities.”

Barton said each regional campus must later develop its own retention plan as part of enrollment management. The Ashtabula campus conducted a student retention survey and is using the data to improve student retention. The Stark campus adopted the entire graduating class of Canton South High School.

“(The Stark campus is) hoping not only to use this as a recruitment strategy, but as a retention strategy,” Barton said. “For them, that’s a double whammy.”

Regional campuses are also working together to broaden the amount of degrees and courses offered at each school. Students can take classes that are not offered at their campus via satellite instead of the campus adding a new program.

“One of the things we’re trying to explore … is how each of the campuses can be supportive of the other campuses if they identify that there is a need in their area, rather than taking the time to develop a new degree for that campus,” Barton said.

Contact regional campus south reporter Morgan Day at [email protected].