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Despite setbacks, UWRF sees increase in freshman admission

Falcon News Service

September 17, 2015

After recent years of declining enrollment, the number of freshmen attending UW-River Falls for the fall 2015 semester has finally increased, according to the Admissions Office.

The amount of incoming freshmen dropped by more than 20 percent between 2010 and 2014, according to data from UWRF’s Office of Institutional Research. The fall of 2014 saw 978 new freshmen, compared to 1,235 in 2010. Although final numbers for this year have not yet been calculated, preliminary numbers indicate 1,064 freshmen enrolled as of Sept. 9.

The increase comes as a result of campus-wide efforts in the last year, according to Director of Admissions and New Student Programs Sarah Egerstrom. She said that one of the focuses has been increasing awareness of the university around the area.

“We’ve done more recruitment travel, we’ve hosted more visitors to campus, worked really closely with University Communications in refining our marketing and messaging for students and there’s just been a lot of effort, I think, to fine-tune the work that had been going on in the Admissions Office,” Egerstrom said.

Egerstrom said that the actions have truly been campus-wide, from increased efforts by faculty to connect with prospective students to new digital advertising campaigns to increase the university’s brand awareness.

The news of budget cuts within the UW System earlier in the year caused more concern in the Admissions Office. UWRF saw a budget reduction of $3.31 million, according to a fact sheet about budget impacts from the university. Egerstrom said that she still gets questions about it from prospective students and their families and reassures them about the quality of education that can still be received.

“I think that’s a realistic concern in terms of just perception about the UW System and attending school here,” Egerstrom said.

Another focus for the department has been increasing the amount of international degree-seeking students, particularly after changes to the Institute of International Education’s Brazil Scientific Mobility Program last year caused the number of Brazilian students at UWRF to decrease this year.

“My understanding is that there were just some changes with the Brazilian government in the funding to support that Brazil Scientific Mobility Program, and so they’re just sending fewer students. So that large influx that we had a semester or two semesters ago, that’s not a trend that’ll continue,” Egerstrom said.

This semester’s freshmen have reasons for enrolling at UWRF ranging from simply finding a school with the right major to family tradition. Freshman Jamie Muenzner said that she found out about UWRF while researching universities in the UW System and looking for one with an exercise and sport science program.

Morgan Fisher and Bethany Klanderman, both new freshmen, heard about UWRF from their families. Fisher said that two of her cousins attended the university, while Klanderman’s family history is more extensive.

“I found out about this school through my parents,” Klanderman said. “Everyone in my family has gone to River Falls, including both sets of my grandparents, and it’s kind of like a family school for me.”

Egerstrom said that the numbers are heading in the right direction, and the Admissions Office will continue to work on increasing enrollment numbers in the future. The goal for the fall of 2016 is to accept 1,175 freshmen and 450 transfer students.