In response to lower enrollment, the Augustana College admissions staff is introducing new strategies and a new staff member devoted to fine arts recruitment.
The current freshman class is approximately 35 students smaller than average, according to recent reports from the admission office. Multiple factors contribute to this issue.
“We have sensed a slow, but consistent trajectory over the past few years,” director of admission Adam Heinitz said. Last summer, admissions hired a consultant to conduct surveys and go over the best methods of building relationships and catering to prospective students.
One major change to the system came in the form of a new staff member. Recent Augustana alumna Maren Engel was hired this year as the new performing arts recruitment coordinator.
The position is similar to that of an athletic recruiter. Engel will be working specifically with vocal, instrumental and theatrical students, providing them with information about the opportunities Augustana offers in the arts.
“As a musician and a performing artist, I know how these students approach the college search,” said Engel.
Personal recruitment is an aspect of the admissions process that the staff plans to push to the next level. “Students don’t just end up at Augustana. They tend to be very invested in what goes on at the school,” Heinitz said.
To assist in the goal of improved personal recruitment, Augustana tour guides will receive more intensive training than ever before. Guides will be made fully aware of everything campus has to offer, so they are able to provide prospective students with the most accurate representation of the college’s offerings as possible.
“To me, one of the great things about Augie is that anyone can find their niche and evolve into whatever sort of person they were meant to become,” student ambassador and junior Erin Williams said.
Student ambassadors act as tour guides for prospective students when they come to Augustana for a visit day.
“The visit experience is extremely important,” Heinitz said. “The college decision process is a very emotional one . . . results can be very different one year to the next, often for no apparent reason.”
The appearance, quality and amenities of a campus are all features that are tied to the emotional side of a student’s enrollment decision. Competition has intensified with state schools such as the University of South Dakota and South Dakota State University as they increase their academic offerings and improve physical attributes such as the quality of their student unions and common areas, while keeping tuition prices low.
“Families are less inclined to borrow money. Everyone is being more careful about their decisions,” Heinitz said.
In addition, population growth in the Sioux Falls area is becoming more and more diverse. The changing demographic can be a challenge as many of these families support first-generation college students and are less likely to pay for private higher education.
According to Heinitz, the college is also taking a closer look at tuition costs. Upgrades and improvements to these types of physical attributes are being considered, and some are already in process, such as the new science center.
Augustana’s website will receive some changes and upgrades in the next few years, Heinitz said. College and university websites are often designed almost entirely with the prospective students in mind.
“With lots of these websites, you mistake the site’s homepage for their admission page,” Heinitz said. “Augustana’s site doesn’t put as large a focus on prospective students as other schools’, and that’s something we’ll be working on.” Other website changes may include video tours and increased information on the benefits of attending school in the Sioux Falls area.
The admissions office is pleased with the new initiatives in place so far and is excited about upcoming changes, according to Heinitz.
“It’s an energetic atmosphere,” Williams said. “The counselors and staff are all determined and enthusiastic about the year, and it really shows.”