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Candidate presents new ideas

Megan O'Neil | Friday, February 4, 2005

Saint Mary’s held its second candidate reception Thursday afternoon in its search to fill the new position of vice president for enrollment management.

Candidate Marcia Nance, currently the vice provost for university marketing and enrollment at Barry University in Miami Shores, Fla., presented her plans for improving enrollment numbers at Saint Mary’s to a group of 50 faculty and staff members. The presentation was followed by a question-and-answer session.

Despite some fluctuation in the number of applicants and students, according to Nance, the College has a very strong base to work with.

“I think you have a lot of opportunities that are wide open for a lot of fun tweaking and growing,” Nance said.

Some of that “tweaking,” should include a more pointed applicant search using the help of extensive data, said Nance. Inquiries should be ranked in terms of their interest in the institution and the probability that they will apply. Admissions counselors can then direct their energies toward pursuing the students with the highest potential.

“Four percent of inquiries result in applicants [at Saint Mary’s],” Nance said. “That’s not high enough. I am doing 17 to 20 percent.”

Nance also emphasized the need for a better use of financial resources. Admissions offices waste money on traveling to college fairs and high schools when they could be contacting potential applicants in other ways, said Nance. According to Nance, inviting high schools students and guidance counselors to visit campus is a more efficient way to draw students to the College.

“[As admissions officers, you] need to know what your students are choosing you for and you need to put your money there,” Nance said. “Your institution has to look good. You are competing against a lot of funding out there.”

However, the size of the budget isn’t always everything, she said.

“Sometimes it is not about how many resources but what you do with [them],” she said. “I have worked at [institutions] where we didn’t know if we were even going to open the next day.”

College admissions has become a highly-personalized experience, Nance said, and Saint Mary’s needs to respond to that. There are programs now that customize to each individual applicant. Every e-mail, flier and phone call should give students a personal feel.

“The challenge is to demonstrate at every point of the process personalized educational opportunities,” she said.

The families of college applicants today are very involved in the search and selection, said Nance. Admissions counselors must recognize the traits of the generation they are trying to appeal to.

“I think people of this generation are looking for character education; their parents certainly are,” said Nance. “They are looking for value education. This is the first generation that said it’s fine to wear a school uniform.”

The top position in the admissions office at the college opened up in the fall after then-admission director Mary Pat Nolan announced she would be stepping down at the end of the semester.

Saint Mary’s struggled last year to reach its recruiting goals. The current freshman class is 50 students smaller than the average. Interim director Mona Bowe has said the college is on course to receive its target of 1,000 applicants this year.