In a time when national trends have seen dips in college-going students, universities and colleges — and business schools — across the country have felt that shockwave.
But thanks to an assertive philosophy and some changes in undergraduate recruiting policies, the WVU College of Business and Economics experienced a substantial uptick in new freshmen for the start of the Fall 2017 semester.
“B&E had 482 new freshmen for the start of the new semester,” said Rachel Nieman, college recruitment specialist at B&E, “compared to 431 new freshmen who entered the Fall 2016 semester.”
Nieman and Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Programs Rebel Smith said that the increase is a reflection of changes in philosophy, policy and something students don’t get everywhere they apply: a concerted effort to make them feel like they are special.
“I am thrilled,” Smith said of the increased enrollment. “We revised the admission criteria for incoming freshmen this spring, and I didn’t think we’d see a change in enrollment this fall. I wasn’t expecting to see growth until fall 2018. With these numbers, I am very optimistic about sustaining continued growth.”
“I believe B&E is making good choices, both in our policies and in the way we interact with our students – current and incoming,” said Nieman.
The result of these good choices was apparent in the new freshmen enrollment yield, a percentage that reflects the number of enrolled new freshman divided by the total number of students who were accepted. This year, B&E received significantly fewer applications, leading to fewer admitted students. And while this can pose a sizable challenge for recruitment, the College was still able to welcome a much larger freshman class. As a result of these changes, B&E’s yield increased more than five percentage points over last year, indicating success in terms of a more efficient recruiting process.
“Our new policy gives students who are: 1) admissible to WVU 2) who demonstrate math proficiency and 3) are interested in studying business the opportunity to use B&E resources as incoming freshman,” Nieman said. “Those resources include our academic advising, Business Learning Resource Center and Center for Career Development. This new policy does a good job of connecting students who are likely to be successful with the appropriate support services.”
With a new way of recruiting students and some positive results to build on, Smith said she is encouraged.
“I am very optimistic that this is just the beginning,” she said. “Rachel is able to begin the recruiting season this fall with our new admission criteria in place. This allows her to reach a larger pool of prospective students. Rachel has a top-notch team in place that includes a graduate student and student ambassadors. This team works to meet our goals. They make student phone calls and assist with student visits. I cannot say enough about our amazing faculty and their efforts in recruiting. They play a crucial role in this process and their partnership is greatly appreciated. B&E is committed to continuing to recruit high quality students. We understand that the future of our College is dependent on the success of our recruiting strategies. Tuition dollars are more important than ever. The population of West Virginia is declining. Having larger and larger incoming classes of freshman would seem an impossible task, but to us it isn’t.”
Nieman echoed Smith’s comments, emphasizing that there is a College-wide effort to help attract students to WVU’s business school.
“Successful recruitment is truly a team effort. B&E is incredibly fortunate to have caring faculty who are invested in our success. They have been willing to dedicate time and energy to recruitment activities, and their work makes a meaningful difference,” she said. “Our professional staff in the advising office, in the Center for Career Development, in the Office of Communications & Marketing and in the BrickStreet Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship are always ready to help with anything I need. Even current students participate in the effort via the B&E Student Ambassador Program. I orchestrate these activities, but they absolutely could not be successful without help from the entire College.”
Nieman added, “I am optimistic because the College is making meaningful efforts in both word and deed that demonstrate our commitment to our students. I have optimism because I feel like we’re doing the right thing.”
From a University perspective, WVU experienced record numbers for first-time freshman enrollment, with 6,224 across its three campuses in Morgantown, Beckley and Keyser. The incoming class also has higher test scores and an increase in the number of international students.