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College officials note difference in freshmen enrollment due to outreach initiatives


The Exponent Telegram

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — The number of college freshmen enrolling in four-year institutions has increased by 3.7 percent in West Virginia since 2015. Officials from college campuses in North Central West Virginia said they hope to see further increases with continuing outreach and student opportunities.

“These increases show the strong emphasis the commission and its partners have placed on college access and success,” said Dr. Paul Hill, chancellor of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission. “I am pleased to see that students are beginning to understand the importance of post-secondary education and being prepared for the workforce.”

At West Virginia University, first-time freshman enrollment has increased by 7.9 percent, according to Stephen Lee, associate vice president for Enrollment Management.

“I think that financial aid assistance helped in improving enrollment, and here at WVU we are very proactive in our recruitment and outreach to students,” he said. “We are engaged through high school visitations and college fairs, social media, and our email.”

Enrollment and recruitment are a campus-based initiative, Lee said. It takes participation from all areas, including faculty, student life, students, administration and alumni, he said.

“We can continue to raise enrollment if we continue to spread the WVU message to as broad of a constituency as possible,” he said.

“And the state can continue this increase by marketing the overall benefits of West Virginia as a state,” Lee added.

Fairmont State University saw a decline in freshman enrollment since the fall of 2015, but Interim Vice President for Student Services Dr. Tim Oxley said the decrease was only a difference of seven students, less than 1 percent.

“We are going to continue to analyze what works and look at ways to reach more out-of-state and international students to offset the reduction of the market in North Central West Virginia,” he said. “There is a declining number of high school graduates and those not interested in post-secondary education.”

One initiative Oxley said the university is proud to offer is its PROMISE Beyond program, which offers PROMISE Scholars the opportunity to receive additional financial assistance.

The university is looking at ways to move forward and attract incoming freshmen in the upcoming year, he said.

Freshman enrollment at Alderson Broaddus University has remained stable or even decreased slightly from previous years. However, Vice President for Enrollment Management Dr. Eric Shor said he hopes to see that increase as students become more aware of the university’s success rate.

“Health and science in particular, are some of our most popular and strongest majors,” he said. “Once they become more familiar with our success rate in graduate school and job placement in these fields, we feel our enrollment will continue to increase.”

Shor said the university plans to continue to market and increase awareness to those students who are interested in the degree programs they offer.

“The state will continue to see this rise as long as they continue offering the PROMISE Scholarship and set forth initiatives to increase the benefits of a college education,” he said.

When looking at enrollment at West Virginia Wesleyan College, Vice President of Enrollment Management John Waltz said its full-time enrollment continues to grow steadily each year.

“We look to have solid freshman classes and serve each of the students that choose to spend their college years at Wesleyan,” he said. “We believe that the best recruiter is a happy student, so we want to be able to provide students with the best possible experience.”

In addition to traveling to high schools and college fairs, Waltz said West Virginia Wesleyan College has grown its on-campus events such as Orange & Black Day.

“Our attendance has really grown, and we want it to continue growing,” he said. “We have a great faculty and staff here, and we want our prospective students to have the opportunity to meet these incredible people and make connections before they start on campus.

“Outreach is important, and the state can continue to increase enrollment by letting students know that college is possible,” Waltz said.

Hill said he thinks that through continued efforts and outreach to students, assisting them with college applications, financial aid and helping them once they are on campus, we will continue to see an increase in freshman enrollment.

“With the efforts we have in place, we want to conduct research analyzing innovative programs as they work toward student success,” he said.

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