Good news on the enrollment front; scholarship reception a special annual event
On Wednesday we reported our fall enrollment numbers, and I am pleased to inform campus that our class of first-year students has grown by 6.7% to 1,479. Last year’s class was 1,386.
In a news release produced by University Communications, I said: “I want to thank everyone who has worked so hard on our enrollment goals. This obviously includes our Enrollment and Retention Services office, our marketing department and student services but extends to our excellent faculty and staff across campus. Each employee has an important role to play in recruiting and retaining students.”
For a variety of reasons, recruiting students has become much more difficult and complex in the last few years, especially because of a flat or declining pool of high school graduates. Conversely, flat or reduced state aid makes our enrollment revenue stream even more important.
Because of the relationship that enrollment plays in our overall fiscal health, I have tried to keep the campus as informed as possible because it is critical for us to stabilize our numbers. I have also tried to thank those who have worked hard on this front and to ask everyone on campus to do whatever they can to help recruit and retain students.
Unfortunately, our overall enrollment numbers continued to decline. Enrollment was down from 2018, 8,346 compared to 8,709 at this time last year. Our official headcount enrollment will be verified by UW System later this year, and it usually increases slightly from our 10th day numbers.
As I said in the news release, and have often reiterated on campus, a number of factors have contributed to the downturn, including smaller classes of first-year students, recent large graduating classes, fewer transfer students and more competition in the distance education field. For example, we had 1,593 graduates in 2016-17 and 1,559 in 2017-18.
I hope that new initiatives will help stabilize our enrollment:
- This was the first new class to receive guaranteed scholarships under the Blue Devil Guarantee program. First-year students who meet eligibility requirements receive guaranteed annual scholarships of $1,000, $2,000 or $3,000, which are renewable for their sophomore year. The program is being offered again for fall 2020 and beyond.
- New this year is a week when all application fees for new students will be waived. From Oct. 20-26, our regular college application fee of $50 for new first-year, transfer and international students will not be assessed.
- This is the second year of our innovative program that links upper level student peer mentors with first-year students. MentorLink started as a pilot program last year and has been expanded to all first-year students.
- We are starting a new program called Navigate, which provides more support for retention efforts. We will be phasing in portals for advisers, students and faculty over the next year. This is part of a UW System initiative, and other institutions with Navigate have seen retention increase.
On a related matter, I encourage employees to attend a budget forum at 9:05 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 1, in the ballrooms of the Memorial Student Center. There will be presentations by me, interim Provost Glendali Rodriguez and Vice Chancellor Phil Lyons, along with time for questions. It also will be livestreamed. Look for a formal invitation with more details next week.
Scholarship reception was a tremendous success
There were smiles galore last Wednesday night in the MSC’s Great Hall as Stout University Foundation held its annual scholarship reception for benefactors and student recipients of that generosity. This year 418 scholarships were awarded totaling $812,000. That includes 32 new scholarships.
I had a chance to meet with scholarship supporters and to thank them for everything they do for our students. I know personally how important this kind of financial support is for a student, allowing them to continue their college career and focus more on their studies. I also addressed the Foundation Board of Directors with a campus update and to thank them for the passion they bring to helping students succeed.
A reception of this magnitude takes a tremendous amount of effort on the part of a lot of people, especially those who work for University Advancement/Alumni Relations. I’d like to thank them – with special kudos to Scholarship Coordinator Cindy Hangartner — for a job very well done.
From the Foundation Board, Tim Seichter did a fantastic job as the master of ceremonies, and Mary Van Hout excelled in the challenging job of reading off the scholarship recipients.
…We all scream for free ice cream
Who doesn’t like ice cream, right? Last Thursday was the annual Chancellor’s Free Ice Cream event in the MSC’s Overlook Lounge. I helped hand out hundreds of containers of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to students, faculty and staff.
This is a great way to engage in conversations with our students and employees, all of whom also love ice cream. I was joined by members of my administration.
Again, who doesn’t like ice cream? A video of the event is here.
Our membership in the Greater Menomonie Development Corp.
One of the duties of the chancellor is to sit as a director of the Greater Menomonie Development Corp., a private, nonprofit organization that supports economic development. The GMDC offers a variety of incentive programs that encourage and assist businesses in relocating to, or expanding, in this area.
The board meets once a month. The chancellor, or their designee, gets updates on what is happening with major corporations and other local governments in the area and gives updates on what is happening on campus.
For example, this week I told the board about our homecoming activities Monday, Sept. 30, to Saturday, Oct. 5, and gave updates on the chancellor selection process, our enrollment status and our U.S. News and World Report rankings. This is a valuable community outreach effort.