Tentative numbers suggest that Missouri Western has experienced an increase in freshmen enrollment of 17.3 percent and an increase of 3.5 percent in overall enrollment. No easy feat, considering that high school graduation rates in the state of Missouri are going down.
“It’s beyond our expectations,” Western president Robert Vartabedian said. “We thought if we had an increase of ten percent in the freshmen class, that would be great.”
Vartabedian credits the increase to a combination of vice president for enrollment management and retention Paul Orscheln’s work, the contract with Royall & Company and the addition of the new track and field and cross country program.
“I think our folks throughout campus have worked very hard to bring students to campus,” Vartabedian said.
Orscheln said the university contacted more high school students than ever before, including students from out of state, and completely revamped the way they reached out to them.
“We were not only reaching more students but we were also reaching them more often,” Orscheln said. “Be it though email, regular mail, social media, text messaging–we really tried to get the word out about what we have to offer at Missouri Western.”
There is one factor to which Orscheln attributes the most weight: the number of students coming to visit campus increased by 28 percent.
“Students visiting campus, that’s the number one thing they do before deciding where to attend a college,” Orscheln said.
Vartabedian thinks that events like the R. Dan Boulware Convocation on Tuesday help bring students to campus, as well.
“We have high school students coming to campus to hear Martin Luther King III speak by the bus load and I heard that about 500 will stay afterwards to tour the campus,” Vartabedian said.
Orscheln credits the new approach to recruiting students to the enrollment management agency Royall & Company, with whom Western started working with last year.
“The investment in Royall & Company definitely paid off,” Orscheln said. “We actually admitted more students this year than we had applications all of last year.”
Although Royall & Company paid a big role in the increase, Orscheln also attributes a lot of the success to the admissions office.
“Royall might have been generating interest on the front end, but as soon as those students express interest, the admissions office takes over and begins communication, not only with those students but also the parents,” Orscheln said.
While freshmen enrollment is significantly up, Orscheln said he is also happy about the retention numbers.
“We’re hitting our goals,” he said.
Orscheln said Western is making a bigger effort to reach out to students who have been placed on academic probation and to make sure students know what resources are available to them.
“I think a big piece of that is, we just communicated with students more,” Orscheln said. “If we know a student could be registered but hasn’t yet or they have financial or social problems, our faculty can intervene more effectively.”
The university also specifically targeted potential freshmen from Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas.
“We make sure they know about the Griffon tuition waiver program, so they pay in-state tuition,” Orscheln said. “I think that played a big factor in enrollment increase.”