After dropping from roughly 7,000 in 2011 to 5,250 for the 2015-16 school year, enrollment at Pennsylvania’s Westmoreland College is predicted to increase by 5 percent for the next school year.
We spoke with President Tuesday Stanley about the efforts behind this enrollment turnaround.
Congratulations on the enrollment increase. Can you share some of what has helped make that happen?
Essentially, we’re in the middle of the transformation. There’s a ton of opportunity here that has already been explored at other institutions and a lot that can still be done.
When I came here nearly two years ago, one of the first things we did was roll the application fee, which had been a separate thing, into tuition and fees. Sixty percent of our students are on some form of financial aid, and the application fee was a barrier. The first year we did that, applications increased substantially — by 63 percent.
We also strengthened our relationships with area high schools. Members of my team or I have gone to all the high schools we serve and talked about working together and how we can improve the partnership. There was no dual enrollment, so we started that program. We bolstered our early-college program as well.
Those sound like successful steps. Any others?
I joined the Westmoreland County Forum for Workforce Development, which is made up of superintendents from the 17 school districts, the Chamber of Commerce, business and economic development leaders, and area colleges and universities. We meet monthly to discuss the available jobs in our region, develop career clusters and fix the misalignment between education and workforce. My involvement has improved the college’s visibility and relationships in those areas, and we are helping people obtain sustainable careers.
We hired Clarus Corporation to develop a marketing and recruitment plan and have gotten away from traditional marketing methods; [instead, we are] using geofencing and social media. This is revolutionary for us, and we’ve gotten great results.
We also rebranded ourselves. We were WCCC or the 3Cs, neither of which slides off the tongue. Now we are Westmoreland College or Westmoreland, and our tagline is one word: Ambitious.
Speaking of ambitious, can you talk about your technology advancements?
We’re putting together online degrees for the adult population, starting with our business degree. In 2014, we opened the Advanced Technology Center. My predecessors did it, and it’s phenomenal. Its enrollment has increased by 15 to 20 percent every semester. This past March, every student coming out of any program in that center had a job.
Our college has been operating manually for a long time, but we’re investing in training for all the systems we currently own and will be procuring new technologies to automate the transactional elements. We’re taking a training plan to the board this month that includes steps such as training people on the advising model. We want to go to a case-management advising model and mandate advising so faculty has more resources to help students.
Right now, we don’t have the technology in place to fully roll out the student-success portion. However, many of our programs have wraparound services that come with a lot of faculty intervention. We have lots of plans to lift the rest of our programs to that level, including an early-alert system that we need to put in place.
As I said before, we’re in the middle of a transformation. I’m a change agent, and it’s exciting to make a difference.