Keene State College student enrollment for incoming first-year students this fall semester is down from last year, but student retention is up. This contrast in statistics is due to a number of factors, from work KSC faculty have put in to national demographics.
Director of Admissions Peg Richmond said that this is not out of the ordinary. Enrollment numbers being down is also in line with current national averages.
“It’s (enrollment and retention numbers) fluctuated. We’ve had years where we’ve had very healthy enrollment coming in the door and lower retention rates for a number of different reasons and because of whatever was happening in higher education that particular year,” Richmond said.
Richmond also said there was a consistent ten percent decrease in enrollment across the University System of New Hampshire.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, “While total undergraduate enrollment increased by 37 percent between 2000 and 2010 (from 13.2 million to 18.1 million students), enrollment decreased by 7 percent between 2010 and 2017 (from 18.1 million to 16.8 million students).” Enrollment is expected to increase again by 2028, but according to most recent statistics, enrollment numbers are down for undergraduates.
Not only is the retention rate up for KSC, but so is the conversion rate. Conversion is when a student applies, is admitted, and then they choose to enroll. According to KSC President Melinda Treadwell, the issue with enrollment rates is the lack of applications the college received.
“Our conversion rate in this year’s incoming class is the highest in the entire University System (of New Hampshire). That’s higher than it’s been in the past couple of years,” Treadwell said. “Our problem is we didn’t get enough applications. We were doing our normal quality checking and restriction, so of the applicant pool we had we admitted at our normal rates and brought in a really talented class. We’re about 100 students off our target in the count of incoming first-year students.”
According to Chief of Enrollment Management Office MB Lufkin, KSC currently has multiple methods to try and increase enrollment for the future. Lufkin also said that students who visit the campus are statistically more likely to end up attending KSC.
“The first thing we have to do is get more inquiry. The more students that are interested lead to more applications,” Lufkin said. “Our efforts will be on increasing our inquiry pool and we’ll be doing that through some of the traditional methods we have, high school visits, open houses, information sessions. We’ll also have ramped up our collaboration with the alumni team to make sure we are including alumni in our outreach efforts.”
Richmond stated that increasing enrollment is a matter of the college continuing the work being done and improving in areas where possible.
“We’ve identified the areas where we believe we could meet the challenge best. We do really well when we get students to the application stage. What we weren’t putting enough effort into, we did well at it, but didn’t put enough effort into, is we need to have more of those students raising their hands saying ‘I’m interested in Keene State.’ We’ve got to get our name out there,” Richmond said.
This will consist of efforts like the presence on the school website, in digital media, getting the word out on social media and announcing Keene State’s attendance before high school visits and college fairs so more students attend and become interested.
Despite the number of students being down for this year, the first-year students who are on campus are still managing to beat some past statistics.
“We have more transfers than we’ve seen in the past couple years and more New Hampshire residents than we’ve ever seen. More first time, first generation students, 59 percent of the students,” Treadwell said. “They’re really excited about being here. I’m really excited to see what they do in the next couple years.”
Rachel Vitello can be