Recruitment reports higher number of admitted applicants in 2015

File photo of Cherry Hall.

Jonah Phillips

When Jace Lux took the position of Director of  Recruitment and Enrollment a year ago on August 11, 2014, he immediately began looking for ways to improve WKU’s slumping enrollment numbers.  

Nationally in 2009, 70.1 percent of all high school graduates went to college, but by 2013 that number had dropped to 66.2 percent, and by 2014 it had dropped even more to 65.9 percent.

Lux described the trend of less high school-aged students coupled with a shrinking percentage of those students seeking higher education at the Board of Regents retreat last month, but along with his caveat he brought forth an exciting statistic.

As of July 23 the number of students admitted to WKU is up 1,072 students since this time last year. Lux emphasized that this number solely represents traditional, first-time freshman.

“I take that as a good sign that our recruitment team is doing its job in terms of generating interest in WKU and getting people to apply,” Lux said.

While Lux is excited with the increase in admitted applicants, he warns of the false hope that figure has the potential to bring.

“Something I do want people to keep in mind though is that about a third of college bound students apply to seven schools. So Just because a student applies and is admitted doesn’t mean they are going to come to WKU,” Lux said. “But I have to believe that with a little bit of up-tick the number of students admitted will translate to a larger number of first-time freshman.”

Lux acknowledges that full-scale changes were not made in the office of recruitment when he took over as director a year ago, and even said the staff he inherited was full of fresh ideas that they collectively continue to pursue.

What Lux said he tried to do the most was identify opportunities that the office was not currently pursuing.

“We have been pretty aggressive in recruitment this year just in terms of identifying areas around the state and even around the country where maybe we had a lot of interest but we hadn’t put a lot of focus in recruiting from,” Lux said.

One of the main ways the recruitment staff has done so is analyzing web traffic on WKU’s website as well as social media. 

“We talked about that last year and we started visiting places across the country that maybe we hadn’t visited before or in quite a while. For instance we did a whole swing through California because we noticed we were getting a lot of inquiries from students in California,” Lux said. “I think a lot of that is due to the fact that in-state tuition in California is more expensive now on average than what a California resident will pay in out-of-state tuition coming to WKU.”

Identifying these types of opportunities is what Lux said will hopefully increase the number of freshman this fall.  His staff plans to continue exploring these recruitment channels going forward.

“For whatever reason, we haven’t been doing a lot of recruiting in the Charlotte, North Carolina area but we have seen a lot of web traffic generated from that region in North Carolina so we are sending a recruitment team there this fall probably a couple of times to talk to students and generate even more interest,” Lux said.

The office of recruitment and enrollment won’t know the fruits of their labor until the office of institutional research takes its student census in October.  

“There is always fluctuation, there are students that get dropped for non-attendance or non-payment, students come in late,” Lux said. “So for that first week or two we will have students start late as well as leave so that’s why the university waits till October.”

Lux noted another trend at the Board of Regents Retreat.

“College enrollment tends to be counter-cyclical.  When the economy is strong, enrollment is weaker because students have more opportunity to go back to work,” Lux said. “… When the economy is weak enrollment tends to go up because people realize the marketplace for jobs is more competitive and they would like the edge that higher education can bring.”

Lux said that with the economy in a slow state of recovery, enrolling students, especially non-traditional, has become an even bigger challenge.