(THE PICKET)- As enrollment drops at Shepherd University, efforts to sell the school to prospective students rise.
While enrollment figures for 2016 are unavailable, Shepherd freshman and transfer student enrollment is lower for the spring 2017 than fall 2016, according to University administration. This drop continues a trend in Shepherd enrollment, which went from 4,393 in 2011 to 3,861 in 2015, a 12 percent decline.
Public universities statewide also are experiencing a decline, according to the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission. While enrollment statewide was 69,595 in 2011, it dropped to 65,286 in 2015, a 6 percent decline.
Several academic departments are adjusting to the decline in enrollment by offering fewer classes in the spring than they are offering now.
The biology department is offering 12 sections of biology 104 and it offered 15 sections this fall. The chemistry department is offering 37 sections of classes in the spring as opposed to currently offering 38. The English department will have six fewer classes of English 101 and English 102, and two fewer sections of 200-level classes.
“It is not uncommon to have a decline in enrollment; we experience this every eight to 10 years and we just adjust the schedule,” said Betty Ellzey, chair of the English department.
“There are fewer students going to college than there have been in the last decade,” said Bill Sommers, the vice president for enrollment management. “Since there are fewer students for everyone to pull from we have to target specific areas.”
Shepherd is offering new scholarship programs for out-of-state students, targeting larger counties in bordering states, such as Maryland and Virginia. Some 40 percent of Shepherd undergraduate students are from out of state. Target counties for enrollment in Maryland include Alleghany, Frederick, Garrett, Montgomery and Washington counties. Virginia students from Clarke, Fairfax, Frederick and Loudoun counties are targeted, according to the Board of Governors meeting report from Sept.27.
Shepherd is offering a dual admission program with local community colleges and new discount programs for instate residents in an effort to boost enrollment.
Other efforts to boost enrollment includes changes to boost the school website, and expand social media marketing, reaching out to high school counselors and teachers, an email campaign, direct mail, and visits to high schools.
“We are doing everything we can to attract the best and brightest students to be our next generation of leaders,” said University President Mary J.C. Hendrix. “Our future here at Shepherd is looking bright.”