Investments in marketing help propel enrollment in year two of name change
Fresh off a 2016 freshmen class 54 students larger than the year before, the 2017 version projects to feature a similarly hefty bump.
As of April 14, 353 prospective Vikings had reserved their place on campus, up from last year’s 305 at the same checkpoint. Nancy Davidson, vice president for enrollment, attributed the increase to many things, marketing quality and quantity chief among them.
“I think really good publications, good direct marketing, improvements to the website and digital marketing; I just think the opportunity that the university has given us to invest in marketing has paid dividends,” Davidson said.
President Rob Oliver, who forecasts around 460 freshmen on campus next year, said increased marketing efforts coincided with Augustana’s identity change from college to university.
The name changed to kick off the 2015-16 academic year, but Oliver said the marketing push has continued this year, and the higher projected freshmen enrollment is the fruit of that labor.
“We believe [increased marketing] has helped boost our numbers but believe that the increased interest in Augustana is due to numerous factors, not the least of which is the new Froiland Science Complex,” Oliver said. “I would also attribute the increase to the good work of Nancy Davidson and her staff as well as many faculty and staff who graciously host prospects and their parents when they come to visit our campus.”
Davidson credited those she works with, too, for the increases. She said the admissions counselors have a few years of experience, “really good [counselors], which has a big impact.”
One of those, Thad Titze, a 2013 Augustana grad whose official title is associate director of admission, said counselors do get more effective with experience.
“We not only work smarter but hone the way we tell the Augustana story, especially knowing the many other institutions and stories out there,” Titze said.
The increases in deposits for next year unsurprisingly coincided with an increase in applications.
Davidson said more students are applying because AU streamlined the process. Students no longer need to submit an essay or letter of recommendation for their application to be considered.
“That helped us get more applications completed, which means we can take them to the next level, present them with a scholarship award, all of that,” Davidson said.
Davidson said though she refuses to “count my Vikings before they board the ship,” she is optimistic about where admissions stand going forward.
Horizons 2019 called for a combined undergraduate and graduate enrollment of 2,000, and the gains of this year’s class and next year’s make that goal appear attainable, assuming retention remains strong. Davidson said retention was “rock solid” at about 96 percent at the end of first semester.