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Lessons learned in the fall registration push

Recent efforts to drive student enrollment and registration highlighted student needs and areas of opportunity. Here’s how we move forward.

By Lindsey Coulter

September 24, 2019

Student sitting on brick retaining wall working on laptopMetropolitan State University of Denver anticipated an enrollment decline for fall 2019, based on national and regional trends. When student enrollment began at a sluggish pace over the summer months, leaders at all levels jumped into action sharing ideas, testing new strategies and doubling down on what MSU Denver does best: connecting personally with students and telling our story.

The grassroots efforts worked. Phone calls (which alone netted more than 800 registrations), emails, mailers, personal conversations, registration events, advertising, process improvements and more helped enrollment rebound and students reconnect.

The effort also highlighted many interrelated issues that acted as barriers to students’ early registration, including systemic registration and transfer hurdles and lower-than-ideal staffing levels in key areas such as Advising. While year-to-year enrollment is still 3.3% lower for fall 2019, MSU Denver is now better positioned than ever to attract, retain and engage students.

“We took a hard look at the processes that impact students and prevent enrollment,” said Thad Spaulding, interim associate vice president, Enrollment Management. “How we shape potential outcomes and approaches — and how we employ those lessons in future enrollment pushes — will be key to our success. None of us likes to manage from crisis, but the way faculty and staff rallied was amazing, and we can already see the positive impact of these efforts.”

Enrollment Management is reviewing fall registration data and working with all parts of the University and senior leadership to identify new best practices. Based on initial findings and conversations, future efforts will likely include regular, formalized calling campaigns, targeted registration events and orientation sessions, and increased student support.

For Nahum Kisner, director of student support and retention in the Classroom to Career Hub (formerly part of the Roadways structure), the push brought the first-year student experience into focus and indicated that ongoing relationship building is key to the retention piece of the enrollment puzzle.

“The first-year experience … is clearly more than just a singular event but rather a culmination of intentional collective events and curricular and co-curricular programming that are driven by and grounded in the mission of the institution,” Kisner said.

Michael Nguyen, director of Enrollment Management System and Operations, is also studying the first-year experience by combing through retention data. “Our latest retention rate is 66.86%,” Nguyen said. “Through the Roadrunner Belongs Survey, Withdrawal Survey and call campaigns that have been conducted, we see that finances and family circumstances play a significant role in students not continuing their education with our institution.”

In response, Nguyen and others are discussing strategies to increase early registration to ensure that students’ schedules are more compatible with their busy lives.

Spaulding, Kisner and Nguyen continue to welcome enrollment, retention and registration input, ideas and suggestions. Additionally, those interested in retention and enrollment data and planning can attend upcoming SEM Data Series presentations. The next session will be Oct. 24. Stay tuned for more details.

Topics: Best practices, Collaboration, Community, Enrollment, Innovation, Retention, Student Affairs, Student Success

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