New VP position to improve enrollment

Shannon Hall

President Linda Bennett is adding her first vice president position – vice president for enrollment management (VPEM).

“It’s a brand new position for the history of our university,” Provost Ron Rochon said. “The primary objective is to have this person come in with a skill set that is innovative and bold to help us better prepare, be proactive and strategic as we think about both recruitment and retention.”

Recruitment and Retention haven’t worked well together for the university. Before, students came to USI because they wanted to be a Screaming Eagle.

“We’ve been a bit…the term is not passive…but we’ve been fortunate,” Rochon said. “We haven’t had to do a lot of investments as it pertains to (recruitment) to the university.”

USI hired Noel Levitz, a consulting firm, to help figure out where USI needs to go from here.

“We found out we had some practices that (are) not necessarily contemporary or no longer relevant in regards to the needs of students,” Rochon said.

USI’s enrollment has decreased 8.4 percent since it reached its peak at 10,820 in 2011. Rochon said it’s not just USI’s enrollment that has decreased.

“Historically, the enrollment trends for the state and the nation go on an upward trend,” he said. “If you look at the national trend right now, enrollment figures are definitely going down.”

Noel Levitz was hired before enrollment dropped, but the consultants did think that the vice president of enrollment management was a good position to add.

“Noel Levitz had endorsed the position – they indicated that we may have needed to use this position a while back,” Rochon said.

An enrollment position has become common to universities in Indiana, said Stephen Spencer, English professor and VPEM coordinator.

“It’s just a new way of thinking about the student experience more realistically than having an office of admission, an office of financial aid, an advising center – instead of having all those things being seen as distinct units, this is an effort to make all that student experience coherent,” Spencer said.

The VPEM position brings together two major components, but it also takes into account of student’s best interest.

In the fall, more than 2,600 students took a survey and answered questions about recruiting, advising and financial aid.

“A lot of the initiatives come right out of that student feedback,” he said.

Because Indiana gives state funding to state universities by the institution’s graduation rate, retention is key, Spencer said.

“It’s to benefit the students of USI to graduate on time,” he said. “We don’t want students to come to USI, spending a year or two, and then leaving. We want to try to retain students because it’s in the student’s best interest to finish a degree in a timely way and for us to provide the support to do that.”

State provided funding impacts students and resources on campus.

The VPEM will help figure out how to retain and recruit students to USI, Spencer said.

The Indiana Commission for Higher Education released a report Tuesday, which revealed that for every 100 students who are enrolled full time for a bachelor’s degree in Fall 2005, 22 students – 22.5 percent – graduate within four years. Only 15.3 percent of those students stayed at USI during their full four years.

USI hopes to hire a VPEM who will start July 1, Spencer said.

The committee for the VPEM are going through and reviewing the applications now.

A few on-campus interviews will be scheduled for March, one of which will involve students.

“(The position is) about the students at USI,” Spencer said.