Admissions amps up enrollment

by Molly Crain
News Editor

With the new strategic enrollment plan in full swing, Transylvania University’s admissions office is starting to see an increase in numbers.

“After implementing an astounding 33 new admissions initiatives, the plan is already paying off,” said President R. Owen Williams in his New Year’s email update to the university. “With the early deadline for applications having just passed, we have 25 percent more applicants than ever before.”

As of Tuesday morning, applications are now up 26 percent, according to Brad Goan, vice president of enrollment and dean of admissions, with out-of-state applications up 54 percent and in-state applications up 17 percent.

“We need make sure the right number of those students come to Transylvania,” said Goan.

Concerning future goals for enrollment, Goan would like to see an incoming first-year class of 348 students.

“It would increase a little bit over the next five years,” Goan said. “If everything worked according to plan, we’d be looking (in) the fall of 2016 at enrollment that was just short of 1,300.”

At the beginning of the fall 2011 term, enrollment was down to a slim 1,029 students, 259 of them being first-years. A strikingly low number, 259 is 55 fewer than the class before it and 51 fewer than the class average over the past five years.

But why the sudden drop?

“The reason why we got banged up last year (was) because people chose to go to places with lower cost that didn’t have as much opportunities as we have,” said Goan. “One of the things we needed to do was better explain to the market that this was a real value.”

Efforts to ensure that potential students understand this “real value” are already being executed, such as the posting of various Transylvania advertisement videos online.

The most recent of these videos compares the personal Transylvania experience to that of attending a “Big-State College.” The next video to be posted will be about financial aid.

“This is a pretty aggressive plan,” said Goan. “To say that we are doing a hundred things, that’s not an exaggeration. … They add up.”

Other initiatives that will improve enrollment include program, market, and process developments.

Program developments consist of “things that we aren’t offering that would attract students,” according to Goan. In an attempt to meet the wants and needs of potential students, various system changes and extracurricular activities have been added, such as an enhanced fine arts scholarships, as well as more athletic teams like lacrosse and a cheer and dance squad.

Market developments require outreach. The board of admissions has targeted seven metropolitan areas in which to advertise our university brand: Chicago; Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio; Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas; Indianapolis; Nashville, Tenn.; Pittsburg; and the Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore areas.

In these targeted locations, solicitors of the university either contact or meet guidance counselors and encourage them to make a campus visit. Guidance counselors are the second biggest influencers in the college selection process after parents.

Right now, two programs are being planned to receive 50 out-of-state guidance counselors for a visit, 25 counselors for each event, “people who will go back and be brand ambassadors for us,” said Goan.

The biggest set of strategies, and considerably the “less sexy,” are the process improvements, “little adjustments — things that we think will matter,” said Goan. These include items such as making website changes and ramping up communication with students on Twitter and Facebook,

Even as numbers continue to increase, Goan wanted to add that the board of admissions will still be selective about the students it accepts.

“We feel like the strategies are working so far as we had hoped,” Goan said. “All that remains is for these students to choose Transylvania or not.”

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