Declining Enrollment Troubles Administrators

Enrollment at UW-Milwaukee is on the decline. Since 2007, the number of admitted students is getting lower, and the university projects that enrollment will continue to drop over the next four years.

However, those directly involved with the issue feel that they are taking the right steps towards correcting it.

“I am very optimistic that we will see significant improvements in enrollment,” said Rodney Swain the Dean of Letters and Sciences. Out of all the academic groups, the College of Letters and Sciences has seen the largest percentage of declining enrollment. A potential reason behind this is that the Letters and Sciences has more students in their program than any other on campus, resulting in greater swings in one direction. Still, there are many other factors that go into enrollment.

“A big part in determining enrollment is looking at how many graduates are coming out of high school,” Swain said. “Our numbers perfectly mirror the demographics from the state. When the number of high school graduates goes down our enrollment goes down.”

Swain also said that UW-Milwaukee is in competition with other UW schools such as Madison to draw in students from the state. “Madison has opened their doors a little wider making it easier for students to go there,” Swain said.

With competition from other UW schools and fluctuating high school graduation rates, it has been difficult for UW-Milwaukee to maintain any growth in their enrollment. In order to fight this concern, the school is making some changes in hope of fixing that problem – not just for the short term but to help enrollment in the long run.

“One of the things that the Letters and Sciences department is doing to recruit students is we are trying to better market ourselves,” Swain said. “This includes the L and S (Letters and Sciences) news stories. These pamphlets will include stories from students about their experiences and all that the Letters and Sciences has to offer.”

Another component in strengthening the college’s marketing is the start of internet ads. “We still testing the effectiveness of the ads,” Swain said. “But they would work much like any other internet ad.”

The Letters and Sciences department also plans on hiring three new staff members who will solely focus on recruitment. “We do not have a strong recruitment effort at the moment. We have advisors who go to recruitment fairs, but they have other duties as well. Hiring these recruiters will make a big difference in the amount of time spent on high school students,” Swain said.

The Letters and Sciences is not the only department creating new positions to help with enrollment. The Vice Chancellor’s office recently added the position of Associate Vice Chancellor Office of Enrollment Management, which was filled by Jeffrey Meece a little over a year ago.

“My job is to sort of turn the tide in enrollment and stop the bleeding,” Meece said. “A big part of me getting hired was to come up with an enrollment plan.”

A part of that plan is focusing on undecided students to help them better prepare for college life and set them down a path for career success. It also entails a strong recruitment focus on not just the fall semester but the spring semester as well.

“The spring semester does not get a lot of attention when it comes to recruitment. It’s important that we balance our efforts,” Meece said.

Along with Swain, Meece is very optimistic when it comes to improving UW-Milwaukee’s enrollment numbers. “I am very confident in the work we are doing,” Meece said. “I see opportunities for improvement and I want to be successful in turning the numbers tide around.”

With a multi-faceted recruitment effort, Swain believes that students will look at UW-Milwaukee as a good choice to a first rate education. “This is a high quality university with tremendous teachers and staff who want to help students with their learning. It is important through our recruitment that we inform the community about us.”