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Texas Gets Enrollment Management Lessons From UC

Date: Nov. 9, 2000
By: Mary Bridget Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Archive: General News

Texas educators have a daunting assignment, and a fall 2001 due date is looming for their "Texas-sized" task. So, with time running so short, they've turned to the University of Cincinnati for help.

To meet a court mandate, Texas' public colleges and universities must devise a "uniform recruitment and retention strategy" that does not take into account race or ethnicity when offering admissions, financial aid or retention programs. When you think how sprawling the Lone Star state is, you begin to get an inkling of how diverse higher education institutions in Texas must be and the challenge educators face in devising a plan that meets everyone's needs.

That's where UC comes in. "We're a microcosm of what Texas is," explained Stanley Henderson, associate vice president for Enrollment Management. "We're a higher education system ranging from two-year schools to professional schools."

Henderson was brought to UC by Mitchel Livingston, vice president for Student Affairs and Human Resources to coordinate strategic enrollment management (SEM) initiatives at UC after Livingston took a group of 20 faculty and staff to a national conference to learn about strategic enrollment management. When they returned to campus, a nationally recognized system for recruiting, enrolling, and retaining students was developed, and Livingston hired Henderson.

Livingston and Henderson along with other UC administrators and faculty traveled down to Texas for a "command performance" in Austin this fall: two days of workshops sponsored by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and attended by hundreds of Texas educators. Also on the team: Tom Hadley, associate vice president for Student Affairs and Human Resources; James Williams, director of enrollment services; Ralph Katerberg, associate dean in the College of Business Administration; Linda Cain, associate provost; Warren Huff, professor of geology; John Bryan, Dean of University College; and Marlene Miner, associate professor of English.

At the time, Henderson wondered if the audience might stampede from the room. After all, the workshop was compulsory, as was the legislative mandate for devising a uniform strategy. He smelled strong resistance, "They had their arms crossed, demanding 'What does Ohio have to say to Texas?'"

Quite a lot, said Huff who provided a faculty viewpoint for the two-day Texas workshop. He came away impressed with how thoughtful and forward-looking UC has been on the question of enrollment management. "UC is a model for others in terms of the thought process necessary to examine the campus culture," Huff said, adding that he also came away with an awareness that good enrollment management and success for students requires continuous dialogue between student affairs personnel, administrators and faculty.

"As faculty, we have a key role to play. We need to be aware of the formidable pressure on first-year students in terms of workloads, maturity issues, time management...We have to encourage students to take advantage of campus resources, and not just be content to teach them an academic subject from, say, 9-9:50 a.m."

The UC team focused on showing how one large, urban campus is improving student life through a well-conceived strategic enrollment management (SEM) plan. Highlights of that plan include UC s Cincinnatus Scholarship program which unified and replaced a byzantine patchwork of scholarship programs; the Just Community initiative; individually focused orientation; and the Campus Life plan which is part of UC s Master Plan.

The Campus Life plan calls for livable-scale housing that will encompass academics in the form of seminars, community service activities, special lectures, tutoring sessions and even classes. A new campus MainStreet will serve as a social hive and academic center where students can meet all their needs, including counseling and advising.

Henderson said the Texans walked away impressed. "They saw that we're about five years ahead of them in implementing a strategic enrollment management initiative, and I hope we communicated that strategic enrollment management is about maintaining optimum enrollment, not just minority enrollment and retention." For instance, he said the University of Texas at Austin could actually use the UC framework to reduce admissions. The school currently has 50,000 students, but its "maximum" capacity is supposed to be 48,000.

The UC model is most valuable, according to Livingston, because it is not just theoretical. It's lived out every day in a practical sense, making UC an important national laboratory. Universities in Texas and elsewhere have theoretical experience in making sure campuses are diverse without using race-specific strategies, but they have little practical experience, he explained.

He added that the federal appeals court decision banning the use of affirmative action by Texas' public colleges and universities, Texas vs. Hopwood, foreshadows the future. "The Hopwood case is a benchmark signaling that things will be different. Our model is not just an 'interesting possibility' for others now. It's now the template for Texas campuses who must foster programs and a campus climate that are receptive and welcoming to a diverse population," said Livingston who has made similar presentations in New York State and in Ohio.

The UC plan may prove the tool Texas needs to prosper. That's because following the Hopwood decision, colleges and universities from surrounding states and as far away at the Midwest began "raiding" the state's pool of minority students who are vital to Texas' social and economic future. It's estimated that nonwhite residents could account for more than half the state's population by the end of the next decade.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported in 1999 that the number of out-of-state institutions requesting a schedule of college fairs in Texas had risen 60 per cent. Others were even more aggressive. Indiana University, Tulane University, Washington University and the University of Iowa have either opened admissions offices in Texas cities with large minority populations or have sent representatives there for extended stays.

All of those out-of-state institutions can offer race- and ethnicity-based admissions, financial aid and retention programs. No one knows how successful the out-of-state institutions have been, because Texas only tracks high school graduates that enter one of the state's public colleges.

Both Livingston and Henderson have been invited back to Texas to continue consulting with individual institutions. Some version of the September workshop may also be offered to Ohio institutions through the Kingsgate Conference Center.

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