TSU hires SEM Works to address falling enrollment

Truman State University has seen a decrease in enrollment of full-time students. Last week, SEM Works, an enrollment management consulting firm, visited the campus to assess the University after being contracted to assist the University with the declining enrollment.

SEM Works visited Truman and evaluated how the University handles different procedures like admissions, financial aid, and student recruitment and retention. Jim Black, president and CEO of SEM Works, said the process is currently in the discovery phase. SEM Works also evaluated what programs make Truman stand out to prospective students.

The current number of degree-seeking students enrolled at the University for the fall 2018 semester is 5,980. At the Faculty Senate meeting, University President Sue Thomas said that is a decrease of about 250 new students and about 400 full-time enrolled students overall. She also said the retention rate, the University’s number of students that enroll for additional semesters, has been gradually decreasing over the years.

To reverse this downward trend, the University contracted SEM Works. The firm was selected based on their prior work with similar schools.  

Black said the goal is to create an enrollment plan unique to Truman that supports the University’s mission and resources. He said SEM Works’ job is to address client needs and wants.

“They have lots of experience with universities like ours,” Thomas said. “They understand liberal arts institutions. They understand institutions in rural areas. They were by far the unanimous choice; they were heads and tails above everybody else.”

The projected enrollment increase is currently undetermined, but the goal is to get Truman’s enrollment increasing. Thomas said results will be noticeable by fall 2020.

Regina Morin, vice president for enrollment management, said SEM Works will help the University overcome enrollment challenges such as appealing to a new generation of students, a declining number of high school graduates in the Midwest and Truman’s rural location.  

Morin said a few challenges have led to the poor enrollment. With the number of high school graduates declining, this is a struggle many universities across the state are facing. Truman is listed as the only highly selective public institution in the state, which is another factor to consider when looking at enrollment numbers.

Morin said the students Truman accepts can succeed anywhere, so it is very competitive. She assures, however, that Truman will not lower its standard of students the University accepts.

“The name [SEM Works] tells a story: Strategic Enrollment Management,” said Dave Rector, vice president of administration, finance and planning. “Our freshman class is smaller this fall, and we saw that coming late last spring by the number of applications coming in, so we felt like we needed a consultant to take a look at what we were doing.”

The approximate cost of hiring SEM Works is $154,000.

“We did a bid, or a request for proposal process,” Rector said. “[SEM Works] just jumped out based on their experience. It wasn’t really so much price that you’re looking for there as experience and results. They just felt like a good fit based on the kind of campuses they’ve worked with.”

Hiring SEM Works will not result in an increase in tuition for students. Rector said it will be a one-time expense, and money has already been set aside in the budget.