Faced with the challenge of fulfilling President Teresa Amott‘s stated goal of increasing enrollment by 50-60 student yearly for the next few years, the Office of Admissions has adopted a variety of new approaches, which mainly involve marketing strategies.
Foremost among these have been new strategies aimed at “enhanced messaging,” according to Dean of Admission Paul Steenis.
This will involve sharpening the school’s marketing as well as expanding the reach of that marketing to potential applicants who are not currently receiving it. As an example of this new effort, the school has purchased additional PSAT scores and increased direct communications by thousands of students this year.
Helping in this have also been the publications of the newly revamped Office of Communications.
Another component of this is a limited number of full tuition merit scholarships that Knox now offers in an effort to stimulate interest among students who might otherwise apply elsewhere in hopes of obtaining such a scholarship.
Knox’s use of the phrase “liberal arts” to describe its mission will not be changed. Fellow Associated Colleges of the Midwest member Monmouth College recently announced it will be abandoning the term in favor of alternatives such as “active learning” as part of a marketing overhaul.
These efforts seem to be paying off so far. Some 2,346 students have applied this year, up 20 percent from where applications were at this point last year.
In upcoming years, the college will “sharpen our marketing message further,” according to Steenis. Part of this will include a new electronic application review process that will help manage the anticipated higher volume of applications.
Steenis is sensitive to concerns that increasing enrollment might potentially lower the academic caliber of the student body for a school whose acceptance rate is already over 70 percent. However, he believes that as the school reaches out to more students to apply, the acceptance rate can be kept consistent.
He sees no decline in the quality of future students. In fact, he said, “We’d like to see the acceptance rate go down.”
Still, he cautions that there are “a range of academic profiles” and most of the increase in the student body will not come from students in the top 10 percent of their high school classes.
“Plenty of A- and B+ students will be matches for Knox,”he said.
For now admissions policies will also remain need-blind, but in the future, moving to need-aware policies is “something we ought to be considering” according to Steenis, as the trend at many schools nationwide is to adopt such policies.
The Office of Financial Aid is also playing a large role in the new drive for students. Director of Financial Aid Ann Brill stressed the importance of maintaining high levels of transparency with financial aid for both future and current students, in particular by simplifying families’ abilities to calculate projected cost on the web site.
The school is doing what it can to extend financial aid to ensure that anyone accepted to Knox can afford to attend, but Brill is hesitant of making generalizations.
“The way in which we review financial aid decisions is a very individual process,” Brill said.
She also stresses that Knox is not operating in a vacuum as it struggles to ensure adequate financial aid for both future and current students.
“Colleges across the country are facing the same sort of challenges,” Brill said.