In the coming fall semester, AU is projecting at least a 23 percent increase in first-year enrollment compared to the 2017-2018 academic year.
Enrollment in August 2017 included 406 first-year students, and according to Vice President for Enrollment and Marketing Ryon Kaopuiki, current projections estimate at least 500 new students will take to campus this August.
“Our goal is to get to 550, which is a very aggressive goal—probably unheard of aggressive,” Kaopuiki said. “We’re pushing really hard to get there.”
Realistically, though, Kaopuiki believes numbers will reach at least 500 new students. This will be the largest incoming class for AU in recent history.
“The exciting news is that when you look at published numbers for independent colleges in Indiana, year over year we are outperforming everybody in the state for new student enrollment,” he said.
Increased numbers are largely due to aggressive marketing strategies implemented within the scope of the strategic plan. Kaopuiki believes that “understanding today’s incoming freshmen” and that campus experience is “very important to them” is a major factor as well.
Admissions began accepting the Common Application this year, which has increased the amount of prospective students who are in the scope of the university.
Prospective student campus visits have increased drastically this year as well, both for individuals and groups. Every month since September has produced record numbers of campus visits as far back as 13 years ago. Group visit numbers this year alone have outnumbered the previous two years combined.
All students who visit campus are scheduled to meet with a faculty member while on campus, and Kaopuiki said this has positively influenced enrollment.
“In terms of promoting student experience, our faculty has been incredible in understanding the reality that how a student feels on campus is more important than how strong some of the academic programs are,” he said. “The faculty play an important part on both sides of that, the academic delivery and experience on campus.”
Ultimately, Kaopuiki hopes that campus visits help to “align AU’s story with [prospective students’] stories.” The numbers seem to reflect this hope. Kaopuiki said that, in 2017, students who applied without ever visiting AU had less than a 3 percent chance of matriculating, while those who applied and made a campus visit had a 47 percent chance of enrolling at AU.
“You don’t know what this place is like until you step foot on campus,” he said.
Hoping to get even more students on campus in coming semesters, the university is planning to redesign the school’s website to focus more heavily on mobile traffic.
He said the website is the “front face of the university,” and it is necessary to update it frequently because “websites are living, breathing things” today.
With an increased student population comes also a need for more campus housing. Kaopuiki said that university leaders have begun the process of sorting through increased housing needs.
“We have plans right now that next summer would involve updating some apartment spaces so we could house more upperclassmen in additional apartments,” he said. Beyond that, though, he said, “We are still trying to understand what our needs will ultimately be and where we need to target.”
Future marketing plans for the university are focused heavily on continuing to improve the college experience for current students.
“Our student population is a big part of our strategic plan,” he said. “We have such a friendly and welcoming campus community that comes out to people when they visit. When I first came here, I felt like our current students represented a big opportunity for us related to student recruitment. Students go home and talk about their college experience, and they encourage friends to check it out or not to check it out based upon the experience they have.
“If we can make sure that there is an outstanding student experience, then our students will continue to be part of that experience by the community they engage in and are part of, and they help demonstrate that to guests and prospective students when they are here,” he said.