New director seeks to improve enrollment

Ben Fitch

The new executive director of enrollmentmanagement, Richard Liedtke, has only been on campus since July 1, and his first task is to figure out how to raise enrollment.

“The first step is to understand wherewe are and to assess the situation where itis,” he said. “We’ve got to be very smartabout what we do.”

Liedtke said he could strive to raiseenrollment by one percent a year, animpressive and lofty goal, but he wouldrather find out where the institution wantsto go first. He said decreases in enrollmentare to be expected, but the trick isto know what to do to take care of theswings. It’s about planning, he said, andit takes a village, not just an individual.

“I want to look at the low-hangingfruit. What can we do that is not a bigcost to the institution but that will alsoimprove the situation?”

Historically, it is common for an institutionto visit every high school in thestate with the goal of recruiting at leastone student from each. Liedtke said thisis not a logical strategy.

“If we haven’t typically receivedstudents from a specific high school, is itworth it?” he said.

According to a Noel-Levitz report onstudent recruitment trends, “the ‘top-10’most effective recruitment processesin 2009 include face-to-face, in-personevents, telecounseling, interaction withenrolled students and practices that makeit easy to visit, apply and enroll.”

All these practices rely heavily onthe retention of students, yet there willalways be students who leave for reasonsnot easily controlled by the University.

“My focus isn’t on why students left,but why are students staying,” Liedtkesaid.

Why students stay at Washburninvolves all the departments on campus, Liedtke said. It is hard for him to communicate the interest and passion of campus professors to potential recruits, which makes on-campus visits valuable.

“The key is to get students on campus,”he said. “When you are going tobuy a car, you do your research. You goto the lot and kick the tires and test-drivethe car.”

As for general recruitment, Liedkesaid he wants to use a funnel-managementapproach which markets theUniversity as the most valuable to thegreatest variety of demographics.

“No pun intended,” he said, “we cantalk to students until we are blue in theface, but until we get them on campus,we can’t show them what Washburn hasto offer.”