With enrollment in flux, Kent State is forced to change recruitment tactics

Wyatt Loy Reporter

Since Spring 2019, admission of Ohio freshman decreased by 2.1 percent, causing Kent State to change the way they get the attention of prospective students.

President Todd Diacon presented key enrollment numbers today at the Board of Trustees’ Academic Excellence and Student Success committee meeting. He also proposed plans for increasing yield – admitted students minus those actually enrolled – over the coming semester.

While in-state admissions are down, out-of-state admissions are up. Diacon said this is due to multiple “signature programs,” such as aerospace engineering and aeronautics flight training nationally recruited to by Mary Parker, vice president for enrollment management.

“Kent State University has in its institutional DNA a proud history of access,” Diacon said. “The future of expanded accessibility at Kent State is to enroll more students from families that have low college going rates: first-generation students, students from populations that tend not to send their children to college, and a lot of that has to do with cost and affordability.”

“We’ve had a pretty dramatic increase in admitted students with low estimated family contribution,” Diacon said. “Likewise there’s an increasing high school GPA of the students we’re admitting.”

Even as the university struggled with a $12 million budget gap, they allocated $2 million more per year to “extend our proud history of accessibility” via an increase in need-based funding, Diacon said.

The university will also make changes to their yield strategies, including major changes to housing placements and financial aid letters.

“In the past, students would go to summer orientation before they got their room assignments,” Diacon said. “We’re going to start giving students their rooms before they go to orientations, which will help them understand where they’ll be living.”

Diacon also explained changes to the wording of financial aid letters.

“When we send out aid letters, we use a lot of complicated industry words and acronyms that are hard to understand for 17 and 18-year-olds,” Diacon said. “We’ve started to change that. We’re using simpler wording so students know exactly what we mean.”

This academic year also marked the elimination of regulative policy by the National Association for College Admission Counseling that forced colleges to cease recruitment efforts and enrollment incentives for students already enrolled in an academic institution. 

“We’re in a new normal,” Diacon said. The recruitment never ends. We’re in a 365 day recruitment cycle.”

While Diacon acknowledges this will be a boon for enrollment, others predict it could equally hurt institutions.

“College deposit amounts will soar to increase the cost of walking away from a commitment,” Jon Boeckenstedt, vice provost of enrollment management at Oregon State University, said on his blog. “If you can’t take it out on your competitors, you can make switching costs for consumers higher.”

Wyatt Loy covers administration. Contact him at [email protected].