Pamela Holsinger-Fuchs in the new student center on the first day of classes, August 30.
Boosting UMC enrollment
By Gayla Marty
From Brief, August 31, 2005
Students began arriving at the University of Minnesota-Crookston last week to find a gleaming new student center and expanded bookstore. But for some students, the question remained: How many other students will join them on campus this school year?
The answer is positive. Although two programs at UMC have ended, enrollment is just slightly down. And if Pamela Holsinger-Fuchs has her way, those numbers will be on the rise by next school year.
The new interim vice chancellor for student services and enrollment management is aggressively recruiting students for UMC and creating optimism on a campus that has endured several years of declining enrollment. The University's strategic positioning process identified enrollment as a crucial issue at Crookston.
Here's a partial list of marketing and recruitment initiatives under consideration or underway at UMC.
* Tuition banding: All credits taken above a specified level would be offered free of charge.
* Targeted marketing: The focus is on home-schooled students, 4-H students, GED students, students in North Dakota and Manitoba, and students who are also members of FFA (formerly the Future Farmers of America).
* International students: Provide more scholarships; leverage the University's strong historical ties with China and other countries. An English as a Second Language program for Korean students begins this fall.
* Strengthen articulation agreements: Make sure transfering to and from UMC is easy and efficient.
* Summer camps: Develop summer programs using UMC's equine center and athletic facilities to bring more K-12 students on campus.
* Alumni: Develop their potential as recruitment representatives.
* High school outreach: Bring students on campus during homecoming and Minnesota educators weekend.
* Retention initiatives: Develop specific retention strategies for nontraditional students.
* Web site: Improve UMC's global Internet presence.
Holsinger-Fuchs has generated a to-do list of nearly 20 strategies for boosting UMC numbers, including targeted marketing for home-schooled students, 4-H students, and international students--particularly those from China, leveraging the University's strong historical ties with the most populous country in the world. (See box, left.)
"We say Crookston offers a private-college feel at a public-college price," she says.
Holsinger-Fuchs knows. She joined UMC in 1996 and has worked in student activities, service learning, the student center, and campus ministry. She cites impressive statistics. For example, more than 80 percent of UMC students are in a club or organization and nearly every student has some interaction with a faculty member every day.
"There's an expectation of involvement," says Holsinger-Fuchs. "That's why, when we send students out from UMC, they know it's not just a job they're going to--it's a life."
Northwestern Minnesota is a region that has been losing population for decades but is relatively rich in higher education opportunities: North Dakota State University in Fargo, the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, Concordia College in Moorhead, and Bemidji State University in Bemidji, in addition to the University of Minnesota in Crookston.
As Holsinger-Fuchs researched perceptions of UMC among college students in the region, the news was mixed.
"We found we don't have an image," she says. "It's an opportunity, but we have to fill that gap."
Employers, however, have a very different perception. They see UMC graduates as a bonus. Not only do they arrive on the job with a solid academic degree from a university with the strongest brand in the region, but they also have deep computer technology skills.
Beginning August 15, a new transfer specialist at UMC's admissions office brings a strong background in recruiting for niche programs: she has recruited for William Mitchell College of Law and worked with transfer students.
Boosts have also come from news that Extension Service dean and former regent Charles Casey, a northwest Minnesota resident, will become UMC's new chancellor in September, and that, for the eighth consecutive year, U.S. News and World Report named UMC among the top three colleges in the category "Top Public Midwest Comprehensive Colleges--Bachelor's."
UMC will have an important opportunity to draw creative thinkers to the table this fall when it holds a national conference on regional sustainability, Oct. 24-25. The conference will draw speakers and participants from Minnesota, North Dakota, Iowa, Manitoba, and beyond to examine a broad range of issues, from demographic trends and agriculture to business, the environment, and education.
Casey says campus-led efforts by Holsinger-Fuchs and others will dovetail with broader strategic efforts--which include positioning Crookston as a real place for new ideas.
"They're looking at enrollment proactively and she's providing good leadership," says Casey. "She sees the full picture from the student perspective--making contact, getting them to campus, and then making Crookston a good place to be."