April 9, 2020

When enrollment drops, national surveys tell administrators to listen to the people you are accommodating – your customers – your students

It’s no secret that the College of Eastern Utah needs more students plus needs to retain its students each semester. It’s also not a secret that fall 2003 semester’s third week full time equivalent (FTE) enrollment was down 180 students from fall 2002 (a drop of 9.2 percent). It was one of three schools that saw enrollment decreases; Snow lost 109 students (4.1 percent) and Utah Valley State College lost 17 students (one percent). Six of the remaining Utah colleges saw enrollment growth.

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It’s no secret that the College of Eastern Utah needs more students plus needs to retain its students each semester. It’s also not a secret that fall 2003 semester’s third week full time equivalent (FTE) enrollment was down 180 students from fall 2002 (a drop of 9.2 percent). It was one of three schools that saw enrollment decreases; Snow lost 109 students (4.1 percent) and Utah Valley State College lost 17 students (one percent). Six of the remaining Utah colleges saw enrollment growth.
It is critical that CEU recruit and retain the students it recruits. Since there is little student growth in Southeastern Utah, CEU needs to attract the growing student population along the Wasatch Front who want to attend a small two-year college in Utah offering individual attention. The students are still close to home, but choose to live far enough from home so commuting is not an option.
This recruiting process must entice more students to bypass other colleges along the Wasatch Front and come to CEU. Part of this process in getting more students to attend CEU is involving students in the recruiting process. “Listen to the people your are accommodating,” says Gary Schwarzmueller, executive director of the Association of College and University Officers-International.
He likens this philosophy to “the customer knows best.” This tried and true business philosophy is finding its way into college campuses, where students have an ever-increasing impact on what happens to them.
Take for instance, campus housing, Schwarzmueller says. “Student housing is taking on increased importance. It’s always important but it’s bumped up on the priority scale in tough times, and these are tough times. Any time enrollment drops, universities become more aware of the need to market their products. You can’t sell a bad product. What will hook your students is a visit to your campus.”
In fact, studies show that when selecting a college, college-bound high school students and their parents are highly influenced by campus visits. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching indicates in its “How Do Students Choose a College” that 62 percent of the survey respondents said the appearance of college grounds and buildings influenced them most during campus visits.
Grover Meetze Jr., vice president of Little & Associates Architects, writes, “When students walk on campus, within seconds they get an impression that stays with them a long time.”
Meetze agrees that housing facilities planning needs student input. He and other leaders in the field say students want the same luxuries that have lured them off campus: privacy and less restriction. “Students want privacy. They want their own bedroom, accessibility to the school, a place where they can cook their own meals, minimal rules, a looser setting,” says Leo Lauterbach, vice president of special projects for Moody-Woodley Management, Inc.
Colleges across the nation are responding to the student’s needs by providing more private bedrooms, semi-private baths and compact kitchens that offer an alternative to cafeteria meal plans. They are also sweetening the pot with other amenities including cable hook-up, in-room interactive computer capabilities, enhanced security, and attractive living surroundings.
Today’s campuses with the conventional double-loaded corridor with a group bathroom as the end of the hall is losing the popularity race to dormitory suites and apartments that better meet student needs. Duke University and Davidson College included court settings and other common spaces that heighten student interaction in their student living environment.
Schwarzmueller says colleges need to examine their systems as a whole and incorporate a variety of housing options to meet the varying needs of their students. He cites the specialty housing for honors students represents, perhaps, the most notable innovation in student housing in recent years. Newly constructed or renovated honors halls offer a full spectrum of features and services centered on recruiting and retaining scholar students.
As long as declining enrollment persists, colleges and universities – particularly state institutions – expect to use on-campus housing as an important recruitment tool and income source, says Wayne Leroy, associate vice president of the APPA: Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers.
With these issues comes the demand for colleges and universities to cultivate close and ongoing relationships with their students in order to gain the best insight into their housing needs, writes Schwarzmueller. “Involve students in the process and listen, listen [to them],” he says. “I see this as a critical need now and forever.”
The Eagle writers hope that those involved in recruitment, grounds and housing will listen to the students’ ideas and heed their advice. Attracting new students and lengthening their stay in on-campus housing, and responding to new and improved facilities serve as vital marketing tools for CEU. By involving students in the process, you will learn a lot.

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