CHARLESTON -- Even with lingering problems such as the state budget impasse affecting Eastern Illinois University as well as other schools, the university president maintained an air of optimism as he pushed for a focus on admissions and marketing.
President David Glassman announced in his State of the University address last week that a big focus for him is to further intensify the university's recruitment efforts a by putting a sharper focus on admissions and marketing than the university has in the past.
“At this point, I am reviewing options for reallocation of additional funding to our university marketing and admission divisions,” Glassman said. “Marketing efforts that are tied to student recruitment will be the first priority.”
Currently, the marketing department runs off of $700,000 annually. Normally, universities place 1 percent of the overall budget into marketing. If that were the case for Eastern, the marketing department would be working with $2 million.
Christy Kilgore, assistant director of EIU's Marketing and Creative Services, said department staffers have just had to find creative ways to use the money they have efficiently and effectively.
“We just had to do more with less,” she said.
Kilgore said there are a multitude of things that extra funding would allow them to do.
Faculty Senate Chairman Jemmie Robertson said he thinks utilizing the faculty more in recruiting would be highly beneficial.
“I feel like EIU students and EIU faculty can be very valuable recruiting tools, but there is virtually no funds available right now,” Robertson said.
Robertson said self-funding to recruit students directly has been common practice, at least in the music department.
“We want to do our part,” he said.
Chris Dearth, director of admissions, said this potential increase could make substantial differences in Eastern’s recruitment success.
“(Marketing and admissions) are really what drive our revenue,” Dearth said.
Other than potential increases to each budget in the future, changes to recruiting have been made recently as a different strategy to boosting enrollment.
Specifically with admissions, Glassman said local areas need to be given attention as well as high population areas like Chicago, St. Louis and Indianapolis.
Largely, this effort is being worked on already.
Dearth said officials have been working more heavily with local high schools to interest those students in coming to Eastern.
“We are intensifying our focus in the local area,” Dearth said. “We have always recruited this area. We just may not have been as aggressive as we should have in the past.”
EIU leaders are increasing on-site admissions programs with local schools within an hour to an hour and a half so that the high school students see the campus. The director said Effingham is one place they have tried to be more aggressive with than in the past.
Outside of the local areas, Eastern has focused largely on where applications were coming from, which included Chicago and St. Louis. Along with that, they have been homing in on sites where there might not be a large amount of applications, but there are many college-eligible students.
Despite the more intense pushes in the local area, Dearth said admissions is still vying for students in high schools in the Chicago and St. Louis areas.
“That is where the population bases are,” Dearth said. “If we were to remove ourselves from those areas, we would see no increases in enrollment.”
He said the university's entire plan revolves around moving students through the process which starts with getting them on campus.
“We think if we can get them on campus, we have a better chance to enroll those students,” Dearth said.
While overall enrollment is down this school year, the EIU freshman class saw a 2 percent increase from last year. The university’s enrollment decreases in the past have made it so the senior classes have been much larger than the freshman ranks, which leaders plan to turn around.
Dearth said if they stay on track and continually increase freshman enrollment, enrollment will likely level out around 2017.