WKU works to improve enrollment numbers

Brittany Eldridge

Enrollment is an important factor in WKU’s financial health. Tuition and fees make up roughly half of WKU’s revenue, according to the 2014-2015 Operating Budget.

WKU had 20,456 students enrolled at WKU during the 2013 fall semester, down 668 from the 21,124 students enrolled during the 2012 fall semester. 

Earlier this month, Brian Meredith, chief enrollment and graduation officer, told the Herald that enrollment for this fall semester was around 20,100 students.

Jace Lux, director of Recruitment and Admissions, said student enrollment fluctuates slightly at the beginning of each semester when students are dropped for not paying money owed to WKU. Most of those students re-enroll after they have made a payment and usually work with WKU to work out a payment plan. 

Gordon Emslie, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, said WKU tries to work with students in this regard.

“They really want to be here and they will work out their financial status and we work with them on a daily basis,” Emslie said. “One student at a time.”

Lux said, a lot of the time, when people see dips in enrollment they assume it’s because the university didn’t have as many first-time freshmen coming in.

“Dips in enrollment can be attributed to students either deciding not to come back or not doing well enough in class,” Lux said. “In terms of first-time freshmen, I anticipate that we will see a spike next (academic) year.”

The Office of Admissions hosts open houses for students around the state in hopes of bringing in more students each academic year.

“The number of people in attendance at those events, some of them have doubled from last year to this year, and there’s no guarantee that that will lead to increased enrollment next academic year, but I would think it would,” Lux said. “More people are demonstrating that they are interested in WKU.”

Meredith said in the last 18 months WKU had to “re-vamp” it’s communication plan to try and improve enrollment.

WKU has overhauled the methods it used to attract students. Meredith said WKU is targeting underrepresented minorities, as well as transfer and out-of-state students.

“We’ve also taken our admission counselors…and sent them to new regions and territories and they’ve gone to more places than they probably ever have in the history of the school this past year and will keep doing that for 2015’s class,” Meredith said.

Meredith said that they have closed the gap, slightly, in WKU’s acceptance rate and said he intends to be around 89 percent and has hovered around the low 90s for the past few years.

For the past two years, WKU has used a Competitive Admissions Index that uses a combination of a student’s high school GPA and ACT or SAT score when enrolling students. 

This has tightened up the acceptance rate to the point that WKU is denying a few more students than what it used to, Meredith said.

Meredith said this freshman class was improved from the previous one.

“The class that we have brought in this fall has one of the highest GPAs, about a 3.33…and the ACT went up from last year to a 23.4…and the retention rate went up as well,” Meredith said.

Meredith will give an enrollment report for this fall semester during the Oct. 31 Board of Regents meeting.