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UWRF sees largest freshman class in five years

October 12, 2016

UW-River Falls is currently experiencing its largest freshman enrollment boom in five years, as a result of a variety of efforts across campus.

The goal set by the admissions staff last year was to get 1,175 new freshmen for the fall of 2016. That goal has been met with official numbers from the office indicating 1,219 new freshmen this semester, up from 2015’s count of 1,066.

Sarah Egerstrom, executive director of Admissions and New Student and Family Programs, said that the office has revised everything from internal operations to recruitment messages in order to bring in more students.

“I think in the last 24 months, we’ve really turned over every stone in the office,” Egerstrom said.

One of the “stones” involved an increase in travel and presence at high schools and college fairs. Egerstrom said that UWRF was part of 176 high school visits, 77 college fairs and 43 visits to transfer institutions last year.

Andrew Setrum, a freshman communication sciences and disorders major, said that UWRF was one of his top choices that he discovered at the Minnesota National College Fair last year.

In addition to traveling elsewhere, Egerstrom said that tours have been reconsidered in terms of the best route to take across campus and how the campus appears to prospective students as they arrive.

“Sometimes it’s just a feeling that gets created when you’re here,” Egerstrom said. “And I think that’s what we hear from our visitors, like, ‘It just felt right.’”

The campus just feeling right was the case for business administration major Thomas Heid. He said that the combination of the education quality and UWRF being a small campus made it feel like a second home for him.

“My family was helping me sift through the many colleges I was interested in, and my mother found River Falls online and thought the campus was a good fit for me,” Heid said. “We took a tour and I couldn't have agreed with her more.”

That sentiment is echoed by other new students, as well. Animal science major Kassandra Dondiego said she heard about the university through a past teacher and decided to come to UWRF as soon as she stepped onto the campus.

Egerstrom said that faculty efforts to meet and follow up with prospective students have also increased, because doing so allows students to get a better understanding of what it means to be a student in the different programs across campus.

For art and psychology double major Ashlee Hale, that individual attention made a difference. Hale said that she was contacted by Rhonda Willers, a ceramics professor, while Hale was still deciding where to go.

“She helped me choose this school because it felt as though I was wanted in the ceramics program and not just another student,” Hale said.

In addition to merely attracting students, efforts have been made to make UWRF more affordable. Egerstrom said that around $1.3 million in scholarships was given to new students this year, which brings up the quality of students attending UWRF. The average ACT score for incoming students, for example, was a 22.4.

Egerstrom gave credit everywhere, as the importance of strengthening recruitment efforts has been recognized campus-wide.

“Our results are really a direct result of everyone’s efforts across campus,” Egerstrom said. “We certainly couldn’t do it alone.”

The goal for the fall of 2017 is to see 1,250 freshmen entering the university. Egerstrom said that it is off to a good start, with a 39 percent increase in applications compared to October 1 of last year.