Third candidate for VP of Enrollment and Student Experience discusses battling the national drop in college enrollment

VP of Enrollment and Student Experience candidate Wendy Beckemeyer gives a presentation on Monday, Feb. 17.

Michael J. Collins

WKU’s search for a new vice president of enrollment and student experience continues as a third candidate, Wendy Beckemeyer, spoke to students and faculty at DSU on Monday. Beckemeyer is currently the vice president for enrollment management at Robert Morris University.

In her speech, Beckemeyer emphasized the importance of using data collected internally and externally as a means of improving student retention and combatting a nationwide drop in college attendance.

“When we look at the data, we see there’s been a 6-7% decline in enrollment over the last 10 years,” Beckemeyer said. “What [the university] is experiencing is not personal, this is the state of higher education across the country.”

Beckemeyer related WKU’s retention problem to other universities who are facing similar declines in student enrollment and retention.

She also claimed that by 2029, data predicts a 29% decline in college enrollment nationwide since 2017.

“The truth is we have people in our community who do not believe a college degree is important, and that you’re going to graduate $100,000 in debt,” Beckemeyer said. “We can not change what’s going to happen in the next 5-10 years just by wishing it away, it’s real.”

Beckemeyer proposed price-matching similarly ranked colleges and corporate partnerships as a means of bringing new students to the university, both strategies she has effectively employed while working at Robert Morris University.

Beckemeyer’s experience dates as far back as 1996 when she worked as vice president of Enrollment Management at Colby-Sawyer College in New London, New Hampshire. 

She has served in similar positions at Alfred University in New York and Chatham University in Pennsylvania. She began her current position at Robert Morris University in 2012.

WKU would be the largest college Beckemeyer has been employed at by a significant. WKU currently has 18,183 students while Robert Morris only has just over 5,000.

When asked about how her skills at smaller, private institutions would translate to a mid-size public university, Beckemeyer was confident in her ability to handle the transition and increase in responsibility.

“If you’re a good leader, you can lead a group of two or 10 or 20,” Beckemeyer said. “The effectiveness of being a leader is not about the size of the group, the skills are the same.”

Beckemeyer is the third candidate of four to speak on campus about their goals for the vice president position. Other candidates include P.J. Woolston, who spoke last Monday, and Matthew Aschenbrener, who spoke last Tuesday. 

The final candidate, Ethan Logan, is scheduled to speak Tuesday, Feb. 17 in the DSU Auditorium at 1:45 pm.

Editor’s note: A former version of this story reported that WKU enrollment was roughly 20,000. Enrollment is actually 18,183. The story has been corrected and the Herald regrets this error. 

Reporter Michael J. Collins can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Michael on Twitter at @NotMichaelJColl.