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Enrollment continues to decline

Kelly Bartling leads an open forum for development of the strategic enrollment management plan. The plan should identify opportunities for increasing enrollment and steps to capitalize on them.

Meeting held to discuss past issues, future actions

Haley Pierce
News Reporter

Total enrollment at UNK is down for the seventh year in a row. The numbers come at a time when UNK is developing its strategic enrollment management plan.

A total of 6,279 students were enrolled at the time of the Fall 2019 head count on Sept. 3. When compared to the Fall 2018 head count of 6,327 students, this reflects a 48-person (0.8 percent) decrease.

The number of first-time, full-time freshmen is 844, down from 939 one year ago. Total undergraduate enrollment declined to 4,429, a loss of 55 students. In contrast, the number of full-time transfer students increased by 41 students to 266 total.

Enrollment peaked in 2012 when 7,199 students were registered for classes according to the UNK Factbook. 

The decrease in first-time, full-time freshmen coupled with the increase in transfer students reflects a broader trend in higher education for students to attend a community college before transferring to a four-year institution. Additionally, a decline in the number of graduates from many Nebraska high schools is complicating recruitment efforts.

“Competition for the traditional first-time freshman is incredibly fierce right now,” said Kelly Bartling, Vice Chancellor of Enrollment Management and Marketing.

UNK Enrollment Since 2012 Numbers

Bartling added that it will become increasingly important for the university to package its programs in ways that meet students’ time constraints and financial needs – emphasizing the importance of certificate and similar programs to the strategic enrollment management plan.

Some of these programs are already taking shape. In the 2018-2019 school year, an official “transfer transitions” position was developed to aid in the recruitment and onboarding of transfer students. In addition, a partnership between Central Community College and UNK has allowed students to live and learn here when they would not have otherwise been eligible for admission.

In addressing the challenge of recruiting students, staff will likely turn to other markets as well. Bartling related that graduate students, international students and out-of-state students are areas to target improvement.

Development of the strategic enrollment management plan began this summer with an open forum on Aug. 5 followed by a second forum on Sept. 5. In correlation with the development of this plan, UNK has made marketing investments targeting high school students, and early data suggests a payoff.

The challenge for the enrollment management plan, scheduled to be completed this fall, will be to “position UNK as both the best value and student experience in the region with proof of student success,” Bartling said.

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