Keene State College is preparing for the future of higher education both in the short-term and long-term and is looking at recent data to inform decisions moving forward. At the all-campus meeting on Monday, October 7, in the Redfern Arts Center, KSC president Melinda Treadwell, Chief Enrollment Management Officer MB Lufkin and Interim Provost Ockle Johnson discussed issues ranging from the college budget to how to attract new students and also answered questions from KSC faculty and staff.
Treadwell addressed how even though student enrollment is down for this past incoming class, the increase in student retention has left a positive impact on the school.
“To move by five percentage points in first to second-year retention means the students are feeling welcome, feeling like they made the right choice and feeling supported. I think we’re going to see the first to third-year trends follow as well,” Treadwell said. “This increase in retention this year has made a big difference in the total headcount at Keene State because we’ve kept five percent more students than we had two years ago, and that helps stabilize us during enrollment turbulence.”
According to Treadwell, an important way to get enrollment rates up and maintain retention is to evolve the curriculum KSC offers to appeal to individuals who may not want the traditional college experience.
“We need to consider new pathways and new credentials. Going to college at 18, graduating at 21 or 22 with your four-year degree is important for a subset of the population. But there are people who want more flexibility, individuals who want to come in and go out and come back,” Treadwell said.
Offering micro-credentials and stacking credentials and different opportunities for students to come to KSC and come back again over time to build a degree as they go are some ways KSC may try to appeal to this demographic.
“As the traditional undergraduate population declines, these pathways become increasingly important for us to try to diversify the ways we make our education available,” Treadwell said.
In line with this, Lufkin discussed the importance of understanding the different roles prospective students take on in their path to KSC, known as the ‘pipeline of students.’ There are prospects, which are students KSC recruits by going to high schools, college fairs and similar events. Inquiries are students who have actively shown interest in KSC. Applicants, accepted and enrolled students are the last three in the pipeline.
“The longer-term strategy will be to get systematic about personalized communications for students at each stage in the pipeline, dependent on how they have engaged with us,” Lufkin said. “If they’ve already visited or come to an open house, we should be talking to them differently than if they’re simply an inquiry. We need to spend more time understanding our students and crafting the messages.”
Not only is the pipeline significant for communicating with students but also for crafting their experience when they visit campus in person.
“We’ve been reviewing our informational sessions, rechoreographing our tours, realigning and scaffolding the information students receive so they have a different experience if they come for an information session versus if they come for an open house versus if they come for admitted students day. That includes working on clearer signage,” Lufkin said.
Working on redesigning the online KSC experience has been another large change in hopes of simplifying the prospective student experience to get more students to apply and enroll at KSC. Over the course of the next three to six months, the KSC website will be getting a redesign. KSC will also begin offering online graduate program courses starting in January 2020.
In the short-term, there was a specific effort on the website to drive traffic to the RSVP page for the next open house on Saturday, October 19. According to Lufkin, there are already 50 more people RSVP’d for this year than there were for the open house at this time last year.
KSC has also partnered with the Education Advisory Board (EAB) to redesign the KSC application.
“We have a new application that’s launching in a few weeks that’s called the Leap Forward application. It is mobile responsive and mobile-friendly. It has three clearly articulated steps so students know exactly where they are in the process and they have a sense of how long it will take them to complete the app,” Lufkin said.
Johnson also discussed improvements KSC will be making, but in terms of curriculum KSC is looking to evolve current programs and implement new programs that will be beneficial for students.
“For us to reinvent the wheel was naive and unrealistic. We needed to look for models that have been successful elsewhere in order to build our own process,” Johnson said. “We’re going to look for input from the Educational Development Center. That’s what their focus is, looking to the future and providing direction. Then we’ll identify what are the right things for Keene State. We need to make sure we make the right decisions for Keene State that will prepare our students for meaningful lives and the meaningful work they will do.”
Treadwell closed the meeting by discussing the economic importance of the future business hub that will be on campus, given the employment opportunities in the optics field. Treadwell also stressed Keene State’s important role in the Monadnock region by being an asset to the area in providing not only jobs and education but also performing arts and culture.
Rachel Vitello can be contacted at