Keene State College’s financial performance, student retention and strategic investments are all at the forefront of looking to the future of the college. On Monday, November 25, an all-campus meeting was held in the Redfern Main Theatre for a discussion of where the college currently stands.
Chief Enrollment Officer MB Lufkin brought to attention the advancements KSC has made in making campus more easily accessible to prospective students and the effectiveness of those efforts.
“You might’ve noticed the new signage near the Elliot Center welcoming future Owls to campus,” Lufkin said. “We hosted just over 440 students at two open houses. We were also able to improve our show rate, which means the number of students that RSVPed versus the number of students who showed up went from 68 percent last year to 71 percent this year. That’s a result of the work the marketing and admissions teams did to reimagine the RSVP process and some additional work we did to follow up with students who had RSVPed to make sure they showed up.”
Lufkin also addressed where KSC needs to do work when it comes to student retention in relation to looking at students’ GPAs, achievements and financial needs.
“We’ve structured our communication strategy and financial aid packaging to attract the highly academically achieving students who didn’t have significant family need. We also were generous to our students with low merit and high need. In doing so we effectively left out the middle,” Lufkin said. “We were not attractive or competitive to the students for whom Keene could be an excellent choice; those with middle to high merit, middle to high need. In order to stabilize enrollment and honor our mission as a public higher education institution, we must make Keene more accessible to the key middle demographic. We’re going to be doing this while maintaining a tight academic profile.”
According to Lufkin, moving forward every family that files for FAFSA will automatically receive a $500 grant. Other changes include a January start for the safety and occupational health applied sciences (SOHAS) master’s program, which already has 18 applications for this spring, and a new user-friendly application that KSC has launched.
KSC President Melinda Treadwell addressed the college’s financial performance this fiscal year and trends looking forward. KSC net tuition revenue has dropped by about ten million dollars from 2017 to today.
“Even though we’re stabilized, our discount rate growth and the difference in retention for the type of students we’ve brought in in those cycles has made a difference and our floor has fallen away a little on our revenue,” Treadwell said. “Our projection this year is to fall a little further in revenue, and this is a legacy for the past several classes we’ve brought in. The net tuition revenue and retention statistics for those students who are actually paying the highest net tuition revenue, those kids who were getting very little merit, as we lose those kids at higher rates; that’s why the bottom is falling.”
Treadwell said the focus for stabilization isn’t going to be on head count and average tuition, it’s going to be on net tuition. A calculation will be created that is going to help predict the college’s revenue side, looking exclusively at net tuition revenue. Treadwell also said that the Education Advisory Board (EAB) will be bringing a four-year model to KSC, rather than looking at predictions year to year.
Treadwell also hopes to have the budget for fiscal year 2021 in detailed form in advance of the June 2020 Board of Trustees meeting as part of a new revised budget development process. Also discussed was reclassification of all staff positions, looking at market, compression and parity. This is to help ensure all people are being paid fairly and that longer serving staff are not being compressed by newer staff moving in.
In terms of strategic investments into the college, Treadwell will be asking for $15 million from the Board for those investments around training, professional development and other efforts.
“We will look as a community to those things that we think can transform us, but at the other side of this investment period we will be a different campus with a very focused vision of where we’re heading with better discipline and better execution on what we’re doing. This is not asking for every possible thing we’d like to do; it’s the top priorities to help us get to a place we know we could or need to be based on the students we’re going to be seeing in three to 10 years,” Treadwell said.
Interim Provost Ockle Johnson addressed the academic program review that is underway.
“We’ve been looking at things around majors, looking at things around student credit hours and looking at things around cost and providing departments an opportunity to respond in qualitative ways to describe some of the things that their departments contribute that may not be measured in that data,” Johnson said. “What we need and what we promised is a draft for review in early December that will talk about ‘why’ to faculty and what we’re doing, what the metrics are, what the process will be and the timeline. We’ll look for feedback on that and finalize that before we finish up the semester.”
Treadwell said there are a variety of outcomes that can come from this review, but that program elimination is the last possible resort. It is only an option if the program is not viable to the campus, meaning it is not serving students.
Rachel Vitello can be contacted at