Spring 2017 Green
■ James Hundrieser ’90G, Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs
A challenging economic climate and a decrease in the number of 18- to 21-year-olds in the overall population have left colleges and universities across the country struggling with declining under-graduate enrollments in recent years.
When we examined our fall 2014 undergraduate student enrollment, which at 800 students was among our smallest incoming classes, we saw that while there was an increase in inquiries and enrollment from students in New York and New Jersey, other geographic markets remained flat. With the decline in our target demographic—college-age students—there was also increased competition among universities throughout New Hampshire and the region. This compelled us to reconsider our marketing and recruitment strategies, and our admissions process.
As the vice president for enrollment management and student affairs, my role is to help PSU navigate through these challenges. In the last year, colleagues from across campus—Admissions, Information Technology Services, University Advancement, Marketing Communications and Creative Services, Student Affairs, Athletics, and Academic Affairs—have come together to help position PSU for recruitment success.
As a result of our efforts, we recently welcomed our largest incoming class in the 144-year history. The Class of 2019 is more than 1,400 students strong; about half of them come from New Hampshire, with the rest hailing from 25 other states and 15 countries. We welcomed 235 transfer students, the most we’ve had in four years, thanks to dual admissions agreements with community colleges.
The Class of 2019 already has a variety of impressive and unique accomplishments to its credit: these students are servicemen and women, certified seaplane pilots, videographers, world travelers, budding meteorologists, and more. And with an average GPA of 3.01, this class is the most academically prepared incoming class yet.
Change is good
PSU’s overwhelming success with enrollment for the 2015–16 academic year was the result of focused multi-year investments in admissions, marketing, academic and co-curricular programs, and new and repurposed facilities. We raised PSU’s visibility in New England and beyond, increased our connections with prospective students through targeted and personalized communication, and—because students who visit our campus are nearly three times more likely to enroll—we offered more campus visits than ever before, and improved the overall visit experience.
We also removed potential barriers in our admissions process. Recognizing that standardized test scores hold little value in determining an applicant’s academic preparation, PSU was an early adopter of a test-optional admissions policy, a growing movement among colleges and universities nationwide. Applicants are free to choose whether to submit their SAT or ACT scores along with the required admissions materials, which include high school transcripts, an admissions essay, and an academic recommendation. We continue to consider a student’s extracurricular activities, as well. Together, these items present a comprehensive picture of our prospective students.
The Undergraduate Admissions team and Information Technology Services created more efficient ways to apply to PSU, in addition to the Common Application. The Panther Application (for first-year students) and our new transfer application streamline the application process and do not require an application fee.
Retaining our students
We are ever mindful of the need to not only recruit students, but also to retain and graduate the students we have. To that end, PSU created a new position, the dean of the first-year experience, which provides leadership in assessing and enhancing first-year students’ intellectual growth, social development, and sense of shared community engagement and responsibility. The inaugural dean of the first-year experience is Associate Professor of Criminal Justice Mark Fischler. With this renewed focus on the critical first year of college, we will help ensure that our students’ first year is as successful and fulfilling as it can be, and that they will remain proud Panthers throughout their education here, and beyond.
Galvanized by our enrollment for the Class of 2019, we’ve set an enrollment goal of 1,550 for the Class of 2020; included in that figure are goals for 230 transfer students and 50 international students. We believe these goals, while ambitious, are within our reach: this past summer we had a record number of campus visits and inquiries, and we’re already receiving applications for next fall.
How you can help
To ensure our success, we need your help. Our alumni, donors, and friends make the best ambassadors for PSU. If you know of a great student whom you think would thrive in a rigorous and collaborative academic environment in a close-knit campus community surrounded by the natural beauty of the lakes and mountains, show your Panther Pride by encouraging the student to check us out.