Arkansas State University is changing its approach to incoming students and has renamed and repurposed the university’s Office of Admissions under Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management Dr. Bryan Terry. All current recruiters now become admissions counselors, with operations of the office to be directed by a new senior director of admissions.
“We are in a new era of reaching our future students that requires new ways of thinking about how we manage recruitment and retention — this is the essence of the concept of enrollment management,” ASU Jonesboro Chancellor Kelly Damphousse said. “We anticipated creating not only the new vice chancellor position, but also new ways to organize and streamline our operations.”
Terry will focus on the entire cycle of the individual student, from the moment of interest in ASU through admission and matriculation toward graduation and retention into the Alumni Association.
“In the past, many universities were well-meaning with their idea of a recruiter who got a student interested, then handed off to an admissions office, then handed off to the faculty, then sent out into the world with a diploma,” Terry said. “We want the person who first meets with any student to be the shepherd who guides them through the entire process of beginning classes at Arkansas State. We have a strong commitment to retention under Chancellor Damphousse, and this extends that commitment to our prospective students.”
ASU began to revamp its recruiting and retention efforts after it had a smaller-than-expected incoming freshman class in 2017, and retention numbers had been lower than projected. Both rebounded in the fall of 2018.
Arkansas State reported 1,565 first-time, first-year students, up 9.7% from 1,426 in 2017. Included in this year’s freshman numbers are 50 international students, a 51% increase over last year, up from 33 in 2017.
ASU had an overall enrollment head count of 14,058, which includes students at the Jonesboro campus as well as the students enrolled at Campus Queretaro in Mexico (349 students), marking the third consecutive year with enrollment over 14,000. Official enrollment numbers are tabulated after 11 school days have passed.
Despite positive numbers, the overall number of students at ASU dropped by 86 students from the previous school year. Record graduating classes in recent years are one factor, Damphousse said. In 2017-18, ASU conferred 4,746 degrees, breaking the one-year old record of 4,435 diplomas doled in 2016-17.
During the past academic year, ASU has increased its number of transfer students through renewed and expanded articulation agreements with 21 of 22 two-year institutions in Arkansas.
“Increasingly we see the need for better services in the on-boarding of transfer or returning students in higher education,” Terry said. “A transfer student may arrive with experience in college, but every university is different. Our admissions counselors can assist in that transition. We want them to become a resource to those who are life-long learners that are seeking to complete a degree or return for new skills to advance a career.”
To serve the growing population of non-traditional students within the region, Terry is studying the idea of creating a lead coordinator for veterans, transfer students and returning students.
“Arkansas State has a long history of service to those who are members of our armed forces, whether it is through one of the oldest and largest ROTC programs in our state, providing online educational opportunities for active duty military around the world, or supporting returning service members through the Beck PRIDE Center,” Terry said.
While recommitting to the university’s traditional base in Northeast Arkansas, Terry is committed to expanding the services provided by the office into areas where ASU is seeing enrollment growth or potential, notably establishing admissions counselors in the St. Louis and southern Illinois region and western Arkansas.
Previously known as the Office of Admissions, Records and Recruiting, the recruiting and admissions areas will continue with the Division of Enrollment Management as the Office of Admissions. As a part of the reorganization, the records function of the previous office will shift into the Office of Registrar in the Division of Academic Affairs, according to the school.
The newly organized office is also investigating new management software that will allow for better tracking of communication with potential students and to help identify more opportunities for interaction with prospects. Greater integration of ASU alumni in all levels of the admissions process, from identification of potential students to direct participation in local events, is a part of the strategic plan for enrollment management, he added.