On Friday, February 25, 2011, Robert Pangborn, Vice President and Dean for Undergraduate Education, and Anne Rohrbach, Executive Director for Undergraduate Admissions spoke to more than 80 attendees at the second Quality Advocates session offered this spring. They provided the group with an overview of the enrollment management process, information about improvements and changes to the admissions process, and some discussion about current trends in the demographic makeup at the University.
Pangborn explained that the enrollment management projection process runs throughout most of the year, starting in late summer and early fall with an assessment of current enrollments and the first round of projections for the next year. The Central Enrollment Management Group, comprised of members from throughout the University, oversees the work. Projection targets are created three years in advance, which necessitates careful consideration of state and national changes in high school student demographics. All of the campuses coordinate to create an integrated plan that considers many of the variables that affect enrollments, such as the number of change of assignment students, the number of transfer students, program availability, campus capacity, and more.
Pangborn noted a number of changes and trends in student enrollments over the last few years. Students are enrolling in the University with more credits than before, either as first-year students with advanced placement or prior college course work or as transfer students with advanced standing, having previously attended one or more other institutions. An increase in the number of articulation agreements has made the prospect of transfer more attractive and convenient. The growth in the numbers of students who change assignment to University Park has stabilized as other campuses have increased their four-year program offerings. World Campus enrollments have been growing rapidly and there has been strong growth in undergraduate international student enrollments. The number of out-of-state student applicants has increased while the number of in-state student applicants has declined.
Rohrbach spoke about some of the work that goes into enrolling roughly 16,000 new first-year students each year. The admissions offices at all 20 undergraduate campuses stress the academic quality of the University and the uniqueness of a system that provides students with many campus choices which provide the same high quality Penn State education. They work to correct misconceptions that applicants hold, such as the idea that putting down alternate campus choices will lead to the primary choice not being given full consideration.
Undergraduate Admissions has developed the MyPennState website which includes a new version of the online application in an effort to make the process easier for students. This site serves as an access hub for all the information students need when applying. It also serves to keep them aware of the status regarding their applications. Students can accept an offer of admission for all campuses and programs online.
The redesigned application makes it easier than before to select academic choices, either by college, area of study, or by campus. About 95 percent of all applicants use the online web application. There has also been an effort to increase the use of social networking technologies through the site to keep in touch with prospective and admitted students.
Given demographic trends, there has been an increased focus on out-of-state and international student recruitment. In PA, high school enrollments continue to decline and in some parts of the state the number of high school graduates is down almost 30 percent. There has also been an effort to admit more students who qualify, but cannot be given their first campus choice. In some cases, these students are being contacted directly to make sure they know they have the opportunity to earn a Penn State degree by beginning study at a campus. The University is also using a wait list at University Park given the increased number of applications over the past few years.
Pangborn and Rohrbach took several questions from the audience. They were asked about increasing articulation agreements at some of the campuses, the reasons for increases in international enrollments, how those enrollment numbers compare against peer institutions, and more.
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