As I review the data on Western Carolina University here are the internal and external factors that stood out to me. I am looking forward to your feedback and reading your posts!
Successful plans usually start from inside an organization. They are influenced or motivated by external events, but to operationalize and sustain a plan it must have internal support. Enrollment is a likely focus for an educational institution because without a consistent student stream, college budget is thrown into disarray (Bryant, 2019). Western Carolina University (WCU) began to make enrollment management a primary goal in 2014 with a new strategic plan. This document outlined ways to attract, enroll, retain and graduate students in greater numbers than previous years. All departments in the university were considered stakeholders. Student Affairs is the main player with enrollment management at the forefront of a bold scheme.
The high-level goals of this plan are (WCU Strategic Master Plan, 2014):
· Support the 20/20 Vision Plan by enabling WCU’s physical resources to accommodate the goal to be a national model for student learning and engagement that embraces its responsibilities as a regionally engaged university.
· Plan for the long-range highest and best use of the university’s land assets.
· Maximize the value and usefulness of the existing campus infrastructure while accommodating growth.
· Plan sustainable transportation and infrastructure systems to anticipate growth rather than react to demand.
· Preserve the unique heritage of Western Carolina and celebrate the campus as a place.
· Create a walkable, highly connected, and vibrant campus.
· Produce a “living” document to allow for future revisions and alternatives, while proposing solutions based on current strategies and data.
Upgrades and new construction over the last 5 years include a visitors’ center, campus roads, and signage, along with improvement to housing and classrooms. These modifications are highlighted in brochures and campus outreach programs. Along with an updated orientation process, additional staffing for academic support and added STEM courses, WCU has worked to improve both the look of the campus and its academic offerings. “I like to think of WCU’s recent enrollment trend as a propulsion rocket,” said Phil Cauley, assistant vice chancellor for undergraduate enrollment (Studenc, 2018, p. 1, para.7).
The most significant influence outside the university was a North Carolina program called NC Promise. This state-funded endowment reduced tuition to just $500 per semester for in-state, and $2,500 for out of state tuition in 17 selected NC public colleges and universities (UNC System Office, 2018). During this time North Carolina has seen a general influx in population due to financial and weather-related factors push Americans to leave expensive Northern and Midwestern states (Grawe, 2019). Both of these external factors helped WCU to grow over the last decade and exponentially in the last 5 years.
Capitalizing on their success and sustaining growth will be the challenge for the “Pride of the Mountains”. Record enrollment, increasing retention rates, and a higher GPA for the freshman class are highlights of the last 3 years at WCU (Studenc, 2018). Continuing the 2014 strategic plan while evaluating and making necessary adjustments to programs should keep this small but vibrant university thriving in the future.
Bryant, P. (2019, March 16). Nine strategies for successful enrollment management in today’s
Grawe, N. (2019). How Demographic Change Is Transforming the Higher Ed Landscape.
Retrieved from https://www.higheredjobs.com/blog/postDisplay.cfm?blog=25&post=1843
NC Promise: UNC System Office. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.northcarolina.edu/future-
Studenc, B. (2018, September 7). It’s official: WCU experiences third consecutive year of record
enrollment; student GPA soars. Retrieved from https://news-prod.wcu.edu/2018/08/its-
Western Carolina University (WCU). (2019). Retrieved from
he strategic enrollment management plan at Penn State faces challenges with turning prospective students into admitted students and then also with those students becoming graduates. These challenges come from both internal and external sources. Internally, the primary challenges are associated with cost and time. As a prospective Penn State student, one must make the best choice for his or her collegiate career. Penn State has one of the highest tuition rates of public universities in the country, with the total price for in-state students living on campus coming to $36,365.00 for the 2018-19 academic year (IPEDS, 2019). This may deter the prospective students from attending the university, especially if the aid that they receive is not sufficient.
Furthermore, another challenge with turning admitted students into graduates comes from the time associated with a bachelor’s degree. Many students are “straying from the traditional four-year completion path,” and Penn State students are no different (Anschuetz, 2015, para. 6). This can be attributed to a number of reasons, such as the emphasis that Penn State places on students studying abroad and/or completing internships or externships (Penn State, 2016).
One of the external challenges comes from the competition between Penn State and like institutions for the reduced number of prospective students. In Pennsylvania, the 2019 total enrollment for all of the state higher education system institutions has dropped by 2.9% (Tribune Review, 2019). Due to population declines and high school graduates pursuing other paths, Penn State must now compete for these students more than ever.
Anschuetz, N. (2015). Breaking the 4-year myth: why students are taking longer to graduate. USA Today. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/college/2015/12/16/breaking-the-4-year-myth-why-students-are-taking-longer-to-graduate/37409747/
IPEDS. (2019). Compare institutions. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/datacenter/Data.aspx
Penn State. (2016). Global Penn State. Retrieved from https://gpglobalea.gp.psu.edu/
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