by Victoria Sherwood
In the last several years, Millsaps College has seen a slow decline in student enrollment numbers. In July 2013, The New York Times published that the number of people attending college dropped by 2 percent. The NYT stated, “The long enrollment boom that swelled American colleges is over,” and warned that community colleges and tuition-driven colleges like Millsaps would hit the hardest.
For the Fall 2013 semester, the total student enrollment number is at 805 students, breaking down into 745 undergraduate and 60 graduate students currently attending Millsaps College. The college’s administration and admissions teams are dedicated to raising the enrollment number and increasing the quality of life for Millsaps students.
“We are a tuition-driven institution and we have fewer people, which is fewer tuition dollars coming in the door,” said Kenneth Townsend, special assistant to president Pearigen. “Nobody is going to deny that that is a challenge, but I think that there is pretty significant optimism that things are turning around.”
Over the past year, Millsaps has formally merged the Office of Communications with the Office of Enrollment to secure a stronger relationship between the two, and hired a new vice president for enrollment and communications, Rob Alexander, to oversee them. This merge is meant to bring about a stronger communication with high school students and prospective students. Alexander’s working strategy for increasing enrollment numbers comes in a two-part plan, aggressive external and streamline internal.
“That means a large campaign where we are reaching out and building relationships with high school sophomores, juniors and seniors. Building those relationships over time,” he said.
“Once we start to generate interest, what are we going to do internally to be as streamlined as possible, be as responsive as possible?”
Alexander’s answer, in part, is new technologies that will help not only get the word out about Millsaps events but also make the application process faster.
“I would like to hope that Millsaps would be the first school to respond to a given applicant. If a student applies to seven colleges on the same day, my goal is to have Millsaps be the first school to respond, and respond with not only a letter of admissions but as aggressive a merit scholarship as possible,” he said. “My hope then is that streamlined response gets more students’ and parents’ attention.”
There is no denying that Millsaps has made moves towards bringing change to the campus: the new strategic plan, the upcoming campus master plan, and the long awaited new Caf’ and Kava updates.