With the spring semester well underway and all students and credit hours accounted for, it seems that WU is down again in terms of enrollment.
While other area schools such as Fort Hays State, Pittsburg State, Kansas University and Kansas State University have all increased from spring 2008 in comparison to spring 2009, Washburn’s enrollment has dropped 4.7 percent, according to Tom Ellis, vice president of enrollment.
But Ellis believes the disparity may not be what it seems.
“The state universities include off campus, on-line students in their numbers. There are not 8,000 students at Hays America, there’s about 4,000 students, and about 5,000 students in China,” said Ellis.
He acknowledges those 5,000 on-line students are a resource but the inclusion of on-line students makes comparing state universities to Washburn like comparing apples to oranges.
“We have relatively few [students] at a distance, we have 130,” he said.
To account for Washburn’s 4.7 percent drop in spring to spring enrollment
“Full time student numbers did not change, it is part-time students that seem to be taking a break, saving their money, taking less credit hours due to the economy,” said Ellis. “The senior class was the biggest one we graduated last spring. We had gone up 25 percent in the last five years in enrollment. That meant we had some very big graduating classes and we have a big graduating class coming up this spring. Freshman enrollment went up this year but not enough to replace the people who are graduating. We need to double our recruiting efforts.”
Kirk Haskins, director of admissions, explained some new efforts in recruitment.
“We are revamping and re-imaging our message, our brand,” he said. “We have made a commitment to commit more resources to software to help us communicate, to build on relationships. This month of February, we worked on CRM which stands for Constituent Relationship Management software. It’s more than a recruitment tool, it’s a relationship marketing tool.”
Once students are in the system, Washburn will be able to identify their interest and send them information that progresses, first a letter, then a brochure and so on; every fourteen days it can send out a new message unique to the prospect.
“Once we have the prospects we start talking to them, building up the relationship,” said Haskins. “Our goal is to filter them down into applicants. Once they apply we hope to filter them into enrollees. That yield between applicant and enrollee is where we spend a lot of energy and time trying to help the student with their choice. That yield runs about 50 percent. “We have some unique programs to offer,” said Ellis. “Actuarial Science is not offered everywhere. We have a Masters of Social Work Law combination and an MBA Law combination, those are not common. Biochemistry is not common everywhere. There are several that are attractive to international students who are seeking specific kind of degree programs,”
Washburn continues to recruit locally and statewide. Referring to a state map Ellis pointed out the biggest area of focus for the university is a 60-mile radius around WU, which encompasses 2 million people.
“One of the challenges for us is that we have always drawn well from small towns,” said Ellis. “But big parts of the state are being depopulated very quickly.”
The enrollment office has not forgotten about the part-time students it has lost.
“It is time to review the times that we offer courses, both time and the delivery of courses to make sure they are meeting peoples needs,” said Ellis. “It is absolutely time to review what courses we offer, why we offer them, when we offer them and do we offer them.”