UNL works to increase enrollment

By Amanda Woita, NewNetNebraska

After joining the Big Ten, The University of Nebraska-Lincoln made new goals to keep up with the conference. One of those goals is to have 30,000 students enrolled by the year 2017.

According to Alan Cerveny, the Dean of Enrollment Management, UNL’s membership into the Big Ten has brought more national attention and interest to the university.

“This is an opportunity for us, if we expand our national reach, to have students come from across the country and around the world,” Cerveny said.

Cerveny said recruiting out of state and international students is one way UNL is trying to increase enrollment numbers. This means revamping the international student recruiting program. There is now a larger staff that is focusing on specific areas of the world.

Cerveny also added that anyone who show interest in UNL from outside Nebraska is now heavily recruited by the university.

Part of recruitment means having more campus tours and visits. Cerveny said that if a student comes from out of state, he is probably interested in a particular program.

“Colleges need to send strong academic messages,” Cerveny said. “What’s special and unique about Nebraska? Why look at Nebraska instead of other colleges?”

Cerveny added that he encourages students to visit UNL’s campus and specifically tour the program they’re interested in. While this puts added pressure on giving quality tours, it’s important for the student to get a feel for the university.

“Colleges and universities are just like people,” he said. “Each has its own personality.”

Jodi Holt, the Director of Recruitment for the College of Arts and Sciences, said that they are working on meeting students needs while they are still prospective students, and then continuing to meet those needs as the students begin class. She added that the College of Arts and Sciences is working more closely with the admissions office and with each department within the college to spread the messages the college wants to send.

“We’re kind of going full force ahead,” Holt said.

Because the College of Arts and Sciences is so large, Holt said the college is working on making incoming students aware of what majors are available. She added that students might not know about a certain major because they don’t offer that class at the high school level.

Another step to reach out of state and international students is creating a web presence, according to Holt. She said that younger out-of-state students, like sophomores and juniors in high school, are showing an interest in Nebraska. Creating helpful websites would help these long-distance students learn more about UNL, she said.

The creation of the Exploratory and Pre-Professional Advising Center (Explore Center) is another way the College of Arts and Sciences is attracting and retaining students. According to Holt, this advising center helps undeclared students find a major and it helps advise pre-professional students. The students who are pre-law or pre-med still need an undergrad major before moving on to their professional college. Holt said this advising helps build a connection.

“This keeps [students who are undecided] invested and engaged,” Holt said.

Holt added that one of the drawbacks of having a large student body is the perception that a student can’t get personal attention.  That’s why Holt encourages students to get advisors and join student organizations to build a connection with their college. Another way students can receive more attention is by joining a learning community. Holt said that the number of learning communities on campus has gone from three to seven.

“One of the things I believe is one of the secrets to success of recruiting is having more connections with the university — with the professors, with the students and with the staff,” Cerveny said.

According to Cerveny, a percentage of the university’s total costs is covered by tuition. So if enrollment is up, tuition is more affordable for everyone. Cerveny added that out of state and international students pay a higher tuition, so expanding UNL’s outreach can keep tuition low for local students.

“High enrollment is a good thing,” Cerveny said. “It keeps our cost down.”

Cerveny added that with a lower cost, the university could have more money to hire a more specialized staff. This could lead to creating more nationally recognized programs and research opportunities.

“The more we are becoming national and international in scope, the more we’re creating a better education,” Cerveny said.

Even though enrollment took a dip last fall, Cerveny said this is a process that will take a while. He also added that two of the largest cohort years are beginning to graduate and are setting graduation records. So that loss in enrollment might take a while to build back, he said.

“In no time in UNL’s history have we been graduating so many students with bachelors,” Cerveny said. “That’s something people should be excited about.”

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