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Enrollment decrease spurs future changes, goals

September 19, 2014

Over the past five years UW-River Falls has seen a decrease in enrollment, but several recent changes have been implemented in an attempt to turn things around.

The position of Assistant Vice Chancellor of Enrollment and Student Success, held by Kris Anderson, was just one of the main changes UWRF has made in the past year to help raise the bar of enrollment and retention rates.

In 2008, UWRF saw a high of 1,345 new freshmen students; as of right now there is a total of 1,015 newly enrolled freshmen in 2014.

Provost Fernando Delgado said that the pool for graduating high school students in Wisconsin and Minnesota has been at its lowest in the past few years, and this is something that has caused a portion of UWRF’s enrollment decreases.

According to the Wiche Database, the number of prospective graduating students out of Wisconsin is in a trough for the year of 2015 and steadily rising thereafter. The number of prospective Minnesota high school graduating students is projecting steady rising rates out to the year 2019.

Wisconsin and Minnesota is where a large percentage of attending students at UWRF hail from.

“The environment we compete in is very competitive,” said Delgado.

The rising number of graduating high school students in UWRF’s demographic is very promising for the future of the university. Now the focus has become finding new ways to fulfill the needs of future students and make the university the main choice over other universities in the surrounding area.

“The chancellor has tasked a number of us with growing the freshmen and transfer class,” said Anderson. “There is something called Campaign 2015. Our goal is to get 100 more freshmen for next year. Through the rapid action campaign group we’re doing things like revamping our tour guide program, revamping our visit days, putting a lot of effort in to the website redesign, and leveraging scholarships earlier to get students.”

Delgado said that the academic faculty has been spending time identifying new degree programs and areas of study. Anderson helps to coordinate with this effort by looking at ACT scores and seeing what student interests are.

This information is taken into account and they determine high-demand fields that are on the horizon and whether or not it makes sense or is possible for UWRF to offer training in that field.

Retention is another important focus when looking at enrollment numbers. Generally retention rates are tracked from the first year of attendance to the second year. The numbers, again, show that UWRF is increasing those numbers as opposed to recent years.

The Wiche Database shows that in 2012 the retention rate was at 72 percent with a goal of 75.9 percent, and 2013 showed a significant increase to a rate of 75 percent with a goal of 76 percent.

Only time will tell if the changes are a significant benefit in the effort to increase student enrollment, but with all of the positive data and modifications on the promotional side of UWRF, the future appears advantageous.