New plan hopes to increase enrollment

Amanda Garrett

After two years of static enrollment, the University Board of Trustees has approved an enrollment plan they hope will increase the number of students.

The goal of the Strategic Enrollment Plan: 2005-2008 is to create “one university with eight access points,” said Charles Rickard, associate vice president for Enrollment Services.

“We want to target university resources to drive enrollment,” Rickard said. “We want to have all eight campuses work together.”

Enrollment on all campuses will decrease by 221 students in Fall 2005, according to projections by the Research, Planning and Institutional Effectiveness office.

With student fees making up 65 percent of the Kent Campus’ budget, maintaining enrollment is increasingly important, said Pete Goldsmith, vice president of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs.

“This fall, undergraduate enrollment will increase as a percentage of our income, becoming more central to our budget,” he said.

The university plans to increase enrollment and drive student retention by targeting specific demographic groups including new freshmen, regional campus students, transfer students and non-traditional students.

Kent State plans to increase the number of incoming freshmen by targeting specific programs that have high, medium or modest growth potential.

Architecture, fashion design and journalism and mass communication programs have high growth potential. The university would like to add 50 more students to these programs within the next six months by reallocating existing funds to support expansion, Goldsmith said.

Other programs targeted for potential high-enrollment growth include early childhood education, fashion merchandising and justice studies.

Kent State is also working to recruit students from other states, Rickard said.

The University Award Program, which grants eligible out-of-state students a $3,500 scholarship, has been expanded to include 17 states. Kent State has been especially successful in recruiting students from Illinois and Maryland with a total of 213 freshmen applications coming from those two states, Rickard said.

Students in the 25 to 44 age group are one of the largest potential areas of growth for the university, Goldsmith said.

“By 2008, the number of high school students in Ohio will begin to decline, so we have to look in other areas for students,” he said.

Kent State plans to reach the adult market by offering more weekend classes, evening classes, and accelerated courses.

The University believes enrollment has decreased because of the high cost of college combined with a lack of state funds, Rickard said.

“The costs of college have gone up dramatically in the last several years,” Rickard said. “Ohio is now the second most expensive state university system, ranking just behind New Jersey. If you combine that with a decreasing number of available student financial aid support, you have a problem.”

The plan is in its first stages, but it should be fully implemented by 2008, Rickard said.

“I’m really optimistic,” he said. “I think this program has great potential for the university.”

Contact on-campus reporter Amanda Garrett at [email protected].