Good strategies start small. One doesn’t start a weight loss regiment by losing 50 pounds immediately. They lose five, then 10, then 20 and so on. Goals must be achievable. Sacrifices must be made. Adding a human and personal element complicates the matter.
And now, the upperclassmen of Emporia State are beginning to learn that the university’s quest to increase enrollment may come at a cost to them.
The recent release of enrollment statistics by the Kansas Board of Regents seems promising enough. Although there was an overall decrease in enrollment numbers this year, the target demographics – freshman, transfer and graduate students – all increased, according to a press release sent to The Bulletin last week. It was the first step in a long term strategy to bring students to ESU.
The press release concerning the numbers identified two major factors in enrollment success – recruitment and retention. But those outside the target population are left wondering why they have been forgotten. After several years of dedicated loyalty to our school, where are their incentives to stay enrolled here? The caveat to the retention aspect becomes quite clear – keep new students.
School is not cheap. Granted, ESU is one of the more affordable institutions in the state, but debt is debt. The financial appeal of scholarships is no less desirable to a seasoned student than an incoming freshman or anyone else. The cost is the same.
But last November, the ESU Foundation announced an initiative that provided more than $7 million this year in new scholarships for incoming freshman and transfer students.
The recourse for students who have already been here for a year or more is financial aid, parental help or additional work. For those without scholarships, who come from low income families and whose time is stretched to the limits as it is, student loans become the sole option, deepening their debt.
It’s not as if we don’t understand why ESU is trying to boost recruitment of new students. President Michael Shonrock was hired with a criterion of enrollment increases, and if the numbers are any indication, he’s doing precisely that. The Bulletin commends Shonrock and his staff in their efforts, but what about the rest of us?
It seems like a simple fix. If one of the primary ways to increase recruitment and retention is to provide scholarships, then what is preventing the university from simultaneously inundating its older students with information on national or regional scholarship opportunities if they can’t provide us new, institutional scholarships?
Some method of compensation for the intentional ignoring of a massive percentage of current students is in order. Otherwise, we seem to be the cost of future prospects.
We are not disposable. Our time, dedication and money are not trivial. We only ask that we, too, be acknowledged as integral to the university’s future, or, at the very least, not be deemed statistically disposable.