Many students are probably aware that Maryville College has been struggling to meet its goal of incoming students. While it may not be a full-blown crisis, the situation has not been entirely comfortable.
While state schools may receive a great deal of state funding, private institutions are for the most part self-sustaining, and a certain number of both incoming freshmen and graduating seniors is vital. For several years, recruitment and retention have proven disappointing, their low-numbers felt more with every academic year.
Fortunately, hopes for the future are bright, as for the first time in seven years, MC has met its enrollment student goal. Hopeful for 315 freshmen and 60 transfer students, MC has recruited 313 freshmen and 60 transfers, essentially right on the mark. Naturally, this is great news for everyone at the college; although, this isn’t a victory won overnight.
The revamped recruitment process is one that, once enacted, took two years to see progress. According the MC president Dr. Tom Bogart, the process of college selection is one that usually begins near the end of a high school student’s junior year, and in order to have a sizable group of student potentials, MC has to act early.
“It was spring of 2010 when we really started doing a lot of things the way we were supposed to be doing them,” Bogart said. “Essentially, as soon as you take a standardized test, we find you,” Bogart said.
Starting with nearly 28,000 students, MC must narrow the inquiry pool down to about 2,100 applicants. From there, roughly 1,300 will be accepted for a hopeful 300-400 attending students. While the cuts and additions of certain majors may have been a controversial issue last spring, Bogart is adamant that it was a necessity.
“The new majors that were created last year were really just taking existing programs and taking how they were being communicated to prospective students,” Bogart said. MC has a strong focus on students following their passions, yet they also promote practicality.
Many business majors, for example, had a focus in marketing, a program previously unavailable at the college. After realizing there was such an interest, it was instituted as a program of study. Many of the other newly added majors are simply previous programs that have been re-designed with a slightly different, more direct approach.
Another aspect of the recruitment program is based on aesthetics. Attracting students is a matter of marketing, and marketing is about visuals. The college’s main website has begun a continuous overhaul with redesigns meant to better showcase the programs, benefits and activities of MC. Better navigation, a revamped layout and more promotional videos are planned for future upgrades.
Perhaps the most noticeable aspect of campus upgrades is the repair and renovation of academic buildings. Due to constant leaks, the roofs of Thaw and Sutton have been repaired, and the major renovation of the iconic Anderson Hall will begin next year. According to Bogart, the aim is to “have a physical setting for you to academic work and commensurate it with the quality of work that you’re doing.”
The recruitment process seems to be successful, but retention is another focal point under revision. A large freshman class may not mean much if a sizable percentage of them end up leaving the school. To ensure that students attend to graduation, it’s important to find students that enjoy what MC can provide.
To ease the transition into college, the freshmen curriculum requirements have seen several alterations. After careful analysis examining effective practices and past failed practices, a newly formed developmental advising curriculum has been established under the guidance of Dr. Barbara Wells, vice president and dean of the college. As a result, FRS 140 has been dropped entirely, and freshman orientation has been completely re-designed.
Lasting the full duration of fall semester, classes are now co-taught by a staff member, faculty advisor and peer mentor. Each group is tailored around a certain academic interest in an attempt to keep freshmen engaged in the curriculum from the start. Overall, the new recruitment and retention tactics are ones that should pay off over time. They were formed with the goal of providing MC with a stable legacy and strong student body in the future.
Thanks to the hard work and creativity of those who put their time and energy into the revisions, Bogart has high hopes for the future: “If MC is a vibrant, sustainable institution joined in liberal arts and professional preparation in partnership with others, and I was able to contribute to help make it that way, that’s what I want.”