Marketing efforts employed to boost enrollment

Fresh marketing strategies are underway to stimulate regional interest in Youngstown State University.

Jack Fahey, vice president for student affairs, addressed marketing the university in his latest enrollment report.

Diverse marketing venues including social media have been cultivated, and an additional $100,000 budget allocation has been granted, offering recourse to the Office of Marketing and Communications.

Despite these additions, YSU still lags behind schools like Kent State University and the University of Akron in terms of marketing budgets. In fiscal year 2012, Kent budgeted $1.685 million in marketing expenses; Akron spent $1.1 million.

“It is imperative that, even as the university moves through these challenging financial times, we understand the consequences of this funding shortfall and do what we can to close the gap,” Fahey wrote in the report.

Fahey also established three teams, each with specific areas of academia to assess, and tasked them with finding remedies to alleviate the stressors each aspect has on both current and prospective students.

“We wanted everyone to have an information base, consistent across the board. A baseline, to understand where were at right now,” said Joe Mosca, dean of the Bitonte College of Health and Human Services and chair of the enrollment management team.

The team’s goal is to generate a blueprint for long-term enrollment success. However, group members already see a potential setback with the continued growth of Eastern Gateway Community College.

“I think we need to work with EGCC to create a complimentary relationship,” Mosca said.

Fahey also recognizes the risks associated with EGCC’s growth and conceded that YSU may experience drops in enrollment, but only temporarily.

“What typically happens in communities where there is a community college, [it] grows but the institution it feeds into also grows,” Fahey said. “It’s very likely we’ll get those students eventually. The long term impact with EGCC is that it’s going to help us.”

While it’s too early for Fahey and Mosca to determine just what will become of the developing groups, Fahey offered a broad forecast of what he expects to come of it. A type of conditional admissions procedure may be installed to cultivate a higher quality of students.

Incoming students who lack a certain defined criteria may be placed on probationary status and mandated to work with the Center for Student Progress, receive tutoring and enroll in certain classes before moving forward with their education.

Fahey said he feels this increased supervision would enhance their freshman experience and ultimately increase retention rates.

YSU’s Student Government Association has been lobbying for an increased freshman experience program over the past few years, and President Elyse Gessler said she believes it’s finally coming to fruition.

“We’re in the 4 percent minority of schools who don’t have a first year experience program,” Gessler said. “Studies have shown that schools with students that are more involved are higher in retention.”

According to a study completed by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, schools with hopes of boosting student retention need to emphasize the availability of student groups.

“The importance of living on campus during the first year of college to degree completion cannot be overstated,” the study reported.

Therein lies another problem for YSU, where 93 percent of students commute to campus.

“Traditionally we’ve served everyone in the valley. As we transition, we need to be very, very careful not to leave anyone behind,” Fahey said. “If we all of a sudden become this elite organization that large groups of potential students in our valley can no longer get served, we would be turning our backs on what our historic mission has been.”

The teams are now forced to decide how YSU can meet its goals of a higher caliber student body while remaining open as an urban research university.

“How do we, in the smartest and most judicious way, make that transition to having some standards so that we continue to serve all students?” Fahey asked.

This was the second report released by Fahey, and it will continue to be released roughly once a month through the remainder of the academic year.