The changing face of higher education has posed many challenges for recruitment at Marlboro College, where the annual inquiry pool has dropped by more than half in the past five years, from 6,500 to 2,600. The total number of new students enrolled has gone from a high of 117 to 69 over the same period. In keeping with the very first recommendation of the Task Force on the Future report, the admissions office submitted a new and comprehensive recruitment plan to the board of trustees in May. Coupled with the development of an integrated marketing plan, the recruitment plan will help Marlboro identify more qualified students to engage in the inquiry pool.
“We have done a lot of rebuilding in the last year,” said Nicole Curvin, dean of admissions, who took the helm in July 2009. “We haven’t met our admissions targets in the past three years. I think the biggest hurdle has been the economy. People are really holding on to their wallets and asking, ‘Is this the best choice that I can make for a college?’ At the same time we are not as visible as we should be.”
Nicole cites a dramatic turnover in college counselors at high schools in recent years, resulting in a loss of contacts. Also, students are increasingly becoming “secret shoppers,” relying on the internet and social media for information about college choices. These circumstances, combined with economic ones, demand a more consistent and effective outreach effort, if Marlboro is to sustain itself.
“We now have three admissions counselors who are working the entire country and are all fully engaged,” said Nicole. Jessica Nelson, the new assistant director of admissions, started in June, and admissions counselor Bill Mortimer joined Marlboro in July. “We’ve really hit the ground running, reestablishing relationships with people.”
The recruitment plan lists specific strategies that will help the admissions team double the size of the prospect pool and identify new sources of inquiries in the next two years. These range from using data-driven student lists from the College Board and student search organizations to building partnerships with other institutions.
“We’ve collaborated with Burlington College, Sterling College and St. Joseph’s to do events for Vermont college counselors and educational consultants,” said Nicole. Marlboro is working with other member colleges in the Consortium for Innovative Environments in Learning to explore regional events and has joined a group of Vermont colleges that focuses on marketing their programs to the international market.
Other key features of the plan include making better use of the alumni pool, reaching out more directly to special populations and beefing up Marlboro’s online presence. “We are really trying to make Marlboro College less of a secret,” said Nicole.