Laura King named vice chancellor of strategic enrollment
March 18, 2023
As part of UW-River Falls’ ongoing efforts to increase student enrollment, Laura King was named the Vice Chancellor of Strategic Enrollment on Nov. 17, 2022, and took office on Jan. 3, 2023. The Vice Chancellor of Strategic Enrollment is a new position, and follows enrollment strategies such as the UWRF rebrand, the new website, and the College Tour.
“My position is to help grow and strengthen enrollment here at the institution,” King said. “And that means helping recruit new students… and then, helping retain students once they’re here.” King is a UWRF alum, and, during her time as a student, was a resident assistant and a hall director, and participated in various student organizations, including Greek life and music ensembles. “I was a very involved student on campus,” she said.
King was a music performance and pre-medicine student; however, after she obtained a position as a Certified Nursing Assistant, she decided to pursue a different occupation, and was recommended by her adviser to look into the field of student affairs.
“I always credit River Falls with spurring my interests in the world of student affairs and student services,” King said. She said that her involvement at UWRF was a major factor in her decision to work in this field. “The institution holds a really special place in my heart.”
From there, King earned a Ph.D. in Educational Policy and Administration from the University of Minnesota, and a Master’s in College Student Development and Administration from UW-La Crosse. Before coming to UWRF, King held the position of Vice Chancellor for Enrollment and Strategic Initiatives at UW-Stout. She was also Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Institutional Research, Planning, and Grants at Saint Paul College.
“One thing that I’ve been tasked to do is work on a strategic enrollment plan,” King said. King mentioned that she developed a strategic enrollment plan at UW-Stout: “So 50-some strategies is what we started with, and then we prioritize down to ten that we would include in the plan.” King said that these ten were strategies they thought would have the best impact on student enrollment and retention. UWRF’s enrollment plan will follow a similar approach.
King mentioned the collaborative process of the enrollment plan. “[It’s] bringing the campus community together to talk about our opportunities for enrollment… and what we can offer prospective students,” she said. “My role will be to coordinate that.”
King also commented on the reasons for UWRF’s push for enrollment. The main reason, she said, is the enrollment declines that have occurred, and continue to occur, across sectors of higher education in the United States. “The push for enrollment is a stabilization to help sustain the institution as a whole and make sure that we’re here for future generations,” King said. “I think part of it is that consistent decline that we've been seeing.”
A report published by Wisconsin Public Radio said that UWRF has “seen consistent enrollment declines over the last three years.” According to UWRF Institutional Research data, enrollment has declined by around two to three percent each year from 2019 to 2022.
In September 2019, there were 5,902 students enrolled at UWRF, in September 2020, there were 5,774 students, and in September 2021, there were 5,268 students. In September 2022, there were 4,902 students enrolled at UWRF.
“I'm really hopeful that the efforts that we've been doing are going to help us kind of turn that corner and turn that curve around,” King said. The first step in developing the strategic enrollment plan, King said, is gathering institutional research. “I’m hoping that this summer we’ll be able to use for data analysis and getting ready to kick things off in the fall.”
King said that, after this institutional research has been completed, she will develop specific strategies for the enrollment plan. For now, she mentioned other efforts that UWRF is making to increase enrollment, including the UWRF e-sports team, the UWRF marching band, the new first-year experience, and the first-year seminar, all of which will launch next fall.
King also mentioned the importance of retention. “[Retention] is one of the largest areas of enrollment at an institution,” King said. “The structure I’ll set out will have different groups that work on strategies specifically around different areas of [retention].” These areas, she said, are marketing, branding, and recruitment; finance and financial aid; and student success.
King said that she feels confident in the future of UW-River Falls and in the effort to increase enrollment. “My hope is to do that foundational work this summer,” King said. “So then in the fall, we have all the information we need to have those really good conversations.”