KSU wants to appeal to prospective students

Jessica Rothschuh

There’s a new hot commodity on campus — students.

The university is projecting a $5 million budget deficit in the next two years, and for the first time in eight years, student enrollment numbers are not increasing.

Top university officials met yesterday to discuss strategies on how to keep current students here, while attracting new ones.

“Gone are the days when we could count on an excess of student applications,” said Pete Goldsmith, vice president of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs.

“Undergraduate enrollment drives everything, and retention drives undergraduate enrollment,” Goldsmith said. “It’s easier and cheaper to retain a student than it is to replace a student.”

Increasing enrollment and retention is one way to pump money into the university’s budget, and Goldsmith presented a strategic enrollment plan for the next five years detailing ways to “enhance student recruitment and retention.”

In terms of recruitment, Kent State cannot compete with community colleges and distance learning programs on price or convenience, Goldsmith said. Therefore, the “Kent State experience” has to be something “very special” for which students are willing to pay more.

“As an organization, Kent State must be characterized as a ‘culture of caring,’” Goldsmith said.

Marketing this “culture of caring” idea to staff and faculty is part of the short-term enrollment plan.

Other strategies discussed include expanding “high demand” academic programs and majors, developing “revenue-generating” accelerated degree programs and using “person-specific” student recruitment strategies.

People are sensitive to tuition increases, and therefore are forced to make alternative education decisions instead of choosing four-year universities, President Carol Cartwright said.

Decreasing state support of higher education isn’t a new challenge to the university. President Carol Cartwright said she received a budget cut on her first day as president, and state funding has been reduced by 14 percent in the last five years.

Other ideas presented to make the university more attractive to non-traditional students were offering scheduling options with blocks of time set aside for working students and offering additional options at regional campuses.

The conference also updated attendees on waning state support and a need to restructure the state’s economy.

“The House has passed a bill that caps (tuition increases) at 6 percent,” said David Creamer, vice president of administration. A constitutional amendment also has been proposed that would cap total state spending.

Ohio also has unique economic problems to overcome.

The economic outlook in terms of employment is far below the national average, and several of the speakers pointed to a need to shift Ohio’s economic focus in order to improve the economy.

“Ohio needs to change from an industrial to a Third Frontier economy,” said Goldsmith.

A Third Frontier economy is one focused on developing technology.

Provost Paul Gaston said the university needs to respond to the changes in the economy.

“Strong universities cannot and will not remain static,” Gaston said.

Contact student politics reporter Jessica Rothschuh at [email protected].