Enrollment Flurry: Amid rising student numbers, efforts to attract and retain students continue

Enrollment flurryEnrollment has always been a foundation for growth and program expansion at USC Salkehatchie, and it has been the target of even greater emphasis in the past year. In spring 2007, Dean Ann Carmichael decided that enrollment management, a specialized approach to recruiting, admissions, and other student services, held promise for this campus. “Our institution has evolved into a more diverse University campus,” says Dean Ann Carmichael. “Although the majority of our students come from the immediate vicinity, a growing number are coming from all over the United States and beyond to play sports or enroll in one of the four-year programs offered in partnership with other campuses. We needed a more systematic approach to help us recruit and manage our applicants. Chrissy Holliday has done a phenomenal job in her first year in this capacity, and she and her staff are to be commended.” Last summer, an internal position was created to oversee recruiting, admissions, and financial aid efforts on the campus. Holliday was named director of enrollment management, while retaining her grantwriting duties, and she began working with the staff in those departments to jump-start enrollment efforts. “The staff that was already in place was excellent, and I have enjoyed working with them this past year,” says Holliday. “They could have chosen to be territorial and resistant to change, but instead they welcomed me, and I think we’ve done a lot we can be proud of in this first year.” In fact, fall 2007 student headcount increased almost 3 percent, with more than a 13 percent increase in full-time equivalent (FTE) enrollment. The numbers for the spring 2008 semester were even better, with more than an 11 percent increase in head count from the previous spring and a 17.4 percent jump in FTE. That was the largest enrollment increase on any University of South Carolina campus for the spring.

Amber Whitlock and Leslie Fail

Amber Whitlock and Leslie Fail explain the ins and outs of college life to Wade Hampton High School students

“We knew we were working hard, but we were all a little shocked when those numbers came out,” says Holliday. “Shocked, but pleased. We are hoping we can continue that trend and have more good news when the fall enrollment numbers are finalized in October.” Changes in the Web site that are geared to making it friendlier for prospective students have been implemented, and more are in the planning stages. Recent changes include a “Meet the Recruiters” page, where guidance counselors or students can go online to learn more about recruiters and how to set up visits to the campus. A new online request for information option is generating daily inquiries about coming to school at USC Salkehatchie, and all publications, from the admissions packet folders to the program brochures, have been updated. A new publication, Salkehatchie Connects, profiles Salkehatchie students and contains an overview of the campus and its programs. Those booklets have been placed in locations throughout the area, such as banks, doctor’s offices, and libraries. Holliday points to the hard work of the recruiters as one reason the focus on enrollment is going so well. In November 2007, two new recruiters, Leslie Fail of Barnwell and Amber Whitlock of Hampton, joined the Salkehatchie team. They worked with Holliday and Marian Easterlin, the past director of recruiting, to develop innovative recruiting activities. For example, they began a student ambassadors program, which selects top students based on academic performance, personality, and faculty recommendation to assist with recruiting efforts. Those ambassadors attend recruiting events, lead campus tours, and help to staff USC Salkehatchie’s booth at community festivals. Holliday says bringing students into the recruiting process provides a perspective that the staff may not have, and it gives prospective students the opportunity to interact with realSalkehatchie students and ask questions they might not ask of staff members. The recruiters also planned and implemented an outreach program called College 101, which took them into classrooms at area high schools to talk with seniors about college in general. They explained the basic application and admissions process, what to expect from your first year, how to select classes, and even what advisors are. “We learned that a lot of the young people out there don’t understand much of what we take for granted about college life,” says Holliday. “College 101 is all about easing that anxiety for them, helping them understand what it all means and what they need to be doing now, if they’re not ready. Of course, we would love it if some of the students Amber and Leslie helped decided to come learn with us, but it was more about sharing what we could with our community.” She says the feedback from the high schools was positive, and the recruiters are making plans now to resume the program in the fall. They are also looking at ways to get the word out to nontraditional students, those who may not be recent graduates of high school but are still interested in returning to college. That includes going into businesses and industries to make presentations to employees and even talking to small groups at organizational meetings. Because of the potential for growth in Dorchester and Orangeburg counties, the staff is recruiting heavily in those areas, expanding their reach beyond the five counties that are considered Salkehatchie’s home. The varied athletic programs offered on campus, which now include men’s and women’s soccer, base-ball, softball, volleyball, and men’s basketball, have also aided recruitment efforts and enrollment increases. Though many of the new efforts that are most noticeable on the outside relate to the recruiting staff, Holliday says the recent enrollment increases are due to the hard work of everyone in recruiting, admissions, and financial aid. “Everyone in that Student Services Building is focused on helping future and current students, and it shows,” says Holliday. “They daily go above and beyond what is expected to make sure our students get the help they need. The recruiters bring them in the door, but if it wasn’t for the helpfulness of admissions and financial aid staff, the care they take with each person, those prospects would never enroll. This is a team effort, and I am so proud of the work they all do. With our new focus on enrollment, and the team we have in place, I expect great things to continue happening.”