There have been changes to enrollment methods at Truman State University over the past few years. These reforms are meant to make the admission process more straightforward for students interested in Truman, improve enrollment numbers for the University and better understand the students’ intentions as they prepare to pick their college.
Hayden Wilsey, an associate director of admissions at the University, oversees the communication and marketing teams inside the admissions office. His work includes processing applications, communicating with students about their decision to go to Truman and overseeing data management. He also said he supervises the recruitment of graduate students to Truman.
One of the significant changes that admissions has made since last year is the flow of communication toward incoming students.
Wilsey said previously, a large amount of email blasts were sent out to students based on where they were at in the admissions process. Over the summer, they built a new communication system that sent emails to students with information tailored toward their specific interests or needs.
For instance, if they are interested in theatre, then they will receive emails about the theatre program at Truman. Students who are admitted will receive emails from a professor in the department that they are interested in.
Hayden said this move has been quite successful as the open rate of some of the emails have been upwards of 97%.
Wilsey said that students who end up touring campus are more likely to eventually enroll at Truman than students that do not. Incorporating encouragements toward visiting in messaging is very important for recruitment. He said that additionally, in-person admitted student events and Saturday showcases have returned.
Admissions counselors are also playing an important role in the recruitment process Wilsey said. In-person meetings help with prospective students as they go through the process of enrolling at Truman. In addition, counselors are traveling to various high schools across the state to meet with students at those locations.
“The challenge of our job is knowing how a 17 or 18-year-old makes a big life decision. The way that we know that is not by asking them but by seeing how they behave and what they choose to do,” Wilsey said. “We want to make sure we’re providing good support, and information that is helpful for students to make good decisions is really what our push is.”
Enrollment has been declining at Truman and at universities across the country over recent years. Truman had 5,231 students in fall 2019 and 4,655 in fall 2020, according to the Fall 2020 Enrollment Report. Wilsey explained that the University has largely focused on handling issues that they have control over to improve enrollment.
He said that the University needs to be messaging more aggressively toward students in certain areas. Truman is a relatively isolated university, with students often having to travel over three hours to attend, so messaging has to be focused on showing why Truman would be a good fit for students.
Wilsey said one of the structural changes that has been made to encourage students to come to the University has been making the application process more straightforward.
Historically, the timeline has not been helpful for how the current student moves through the process. This year, the University made certain competitive scholarships automatic and awarded students them at their admission. Due to this frontloading of information, there are more excited students who know what they are doing on the financial end and other aspects of the University.
This has made students more confident in their choice of attending the University. In addition, an enrollment deposit has been added so admissions is more aware of the likelihood of a prospective student attending Truman.
Truman has also begun partnering with organizations like Niche and Net Natives over the past year to help market the University. Wilsey explained that they worked with them to create a marketing strategy and then tested those ads in different markets. The goal was to see which ones were the most effective and what needed to be changed. Overall, they are focused on getting good data and staying up to date with how students are going about their college search.
Keaton Wagner, the coordinator of marketing at the University, explained that one of the reasons why the University decided to utilize Net Natives is that they have a prioritizing software that allows them to close the loop on reporting and determine the return on investment for marketing dollars.
It is not a perfect process, he said, but it makes it easier to determine if someone who enrolled received advertisements from Truman. This process integrates data gathered with data from a customer relationship program called Slate, which tells the University when students apply and enroll. This program makes it easier to determine the effectiveness of Truman’s advertisements.
Audiences of ads are chosen by utilizing Slate, Wagner said. They can determine who has shown interest in Truman and also build “look-alike” audiences of people who also might be interested in Truman.
The goal is to encourage students to look at Truman and then ultimately apply to the institution. This process is a planned, multi-step process that occurs over a long period of time, Wagner said.
Tyana Lange, vice president for enrollment management and marketing at the University, described some of the changes that have been made over the past couple years. They promoted two assistant directors, Wilsey and Shari Fogleson, to associate directors. The knowledge that the two of them had with previous directors and their perspectives allowed positive momentum to continue within the department.
Lange also described other reforms implemented as well over the past two and a half years. Communication with students has improved, and they have worked on promoting the quality and excellence of the University over price.
In addition, the University has created a junior communication plan to reach students earlier in their college search process.
They are working toward getting enrollment stabilized for the University. For fall 2022, the goal for enrollment is around 750 students according to Lange. In the long term, they hope to get around 900 to 1000 students per year.
Achieving this goal involves bolstering transfer numbers and promoting graduate studies at the University, said Lange. The messaging of the University is also being modified.
“What we have done is focused on price. I hear this from students all the time: I came to Truman because it was my best option financially, but I stayed at Truman because I loved the experience. I want us to have the conversation about excellence, the worth that students see. That’s the messaging that I want to see the University move toward,” Lange said.