This archived article was written by: press release
College of Eastern Utah’s enrollment is on the upward swing in 2009-10, thanks to record growth at CEU’s San Juan campus in Blanding over the past couple of years.
The Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) keeps track of enrollments at all Utah colleges and universities by calculating the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) students taking credit courses. Since the fall of 2007, the FTE’s at the Price campus increased by about 1 percent. During the same period, the Blanding campus grew 67 percent, from 239 students to 398. Even though the Blanding Campus is only about a quarter of CEU’s total enrollment, the increases since 2007 account for more than 90 percent of the college’s growth.
The Blanding campus has been working hard to increase enrollment using new approaches to recruiting and retaining students. According to Virgil Caldwell, director of outreach and program development at CEU San Juan Campus, about five years ago “we came to a strategic realization that we needed newer ways of doing the education business.” Caldwell said they recognized they could make smarter decisions about growth at San Juan by using real data to maximize the return on recruiting dollars. The key to success, Caldwell said, is a “willingness to consider new ideas before saying, ‘no, we can’t do that’ and looking at maximizing the technology we have with the support of UEN [Utah Education Network].”
The Blanding campus uses the Geographic Information System (GIS) platform for a custom “future student” database that identifies the location and career interests of potential students. The database helps reduce the “guesswork of where recruiting efforts make maximum payoff,” says Caldwell. An important part of San Juan’s growth strategy is listening to people in the community in order to learn what their educational needs are and working to develop programs to meet those needs. “We must be the idea agent for the customer,” says Caldwell and that requires creativity and building up a relationship of trust with the community.
Out of state recruiting is another part of the San Juan campus’s approach to increasing enrollment. The data show that enrollment grew by 15 FTEs from the fall of 2007 to 2009. The growth spurt of the last three years can be attributed to changes in non-resident attendance. Since 2007 resident enrollment on the Price campus fell by 26 FTE, but was offset by an increase of 41 FTEs from beyond Utah’s border. On the San Juan Campus, non-resident enrollment since 2007 is up by 27 FTE, compared to 132 new resident FTEs.
Two recent changes have helped increase non-resident enrollment. Two years ago, CEU changed the way it charged non-resident tuition. Passage of H.B. 364 last year by the legislature increased the number of non-resident tuition waivers that CEU could offer to students coming from bordering states. This has made it possible for CEU San Juan to recruit in southwestern Colorado. San Juan also recruits heavily on the Navajo Reservation. Identifying niche markets and focusing recruiting efforts has been an effective strategy, says Caldwell.
The Blanding campus created support programs to ensure the retention and success of the region’s unique student population. With funds provided by a federal grant, CEU San Juan established a Computer-Assisted Learning Laboratory (CALL) in 2004. CALL provides specific tutoring and help programs in a dedicated computer bank to allow academic catch-up and remediation. The CALL program responds to more than 200 requests for assistance a week. Providing services to help students succeed once they come to CEU is part of building trust with the community and plays an important role in San Juan’s successful recruiting effort. “Our students are taken under the wings of very dedicated faculty and staff with incredible results,” says CEU-San Juan Vice Provost Guy Denton. The result is that over 63% of San Juan students complete either a certificate or degree program, up from a completion rate of 14% five years ago.
“We have a relatively free and cooperative environment to implement things down here,” says Caldwell, and the result is that “our enrollments are increasing significantly.” San Juan’s recent recruiting success suggests that CEU’s decade-long decline in enrollments can be reversed using new approaches and tools.