Preliminary new student enrollment numbers for the fall indicate an almost 12 percent increase in class size from last year—from 420 new students to 470 this year.
According to Ryon Kaopuiki, vice president for enrollment and marketing, this jump is the result of aggressive marketing strategies and campus support.
“The success we had in our admissions recruitments this year is really about a collective university effort,” he said. “We started saying last year that enrollment is everybody’s responsibility, and the university embraced it.”
The new student census numbers won’t be set officially for another two weeks, but Kaopuiki said that enrollment staff “have a general idea of where it’s going to end up.”
Those included in the new student data include first-time students, transfers and re-admits.
Although enrollment numbers fell just shy of the university’s goal of 500 new students, the almost 12 percent increase is rare across higher education, said Kaopuiki. He also dispelled a rumor spreading around campus that this is the largest freshman class in a decade.
“One of the things I’ve heard is ‘this is our biggest class in 10 years,’” he said. “That’s not true. What it is, is the largest improvement in 10 years. That’s a really good momentum builder for us as we go into next year.”
Next year, which will be Kaopuiki’s first full year involved in AU’s enrollment process, the university will continue to implement new strategies to increase student engagement in every step of the college selection process.
“We’ve got a lot more things that we’re doing this year,” he said. “We still have a very compelling story to tell.”
First, the Common Application, which AU accepted for the first time last year, has been expanded to include transfer students. Scholarships available to transfer students have also been increased in an attempt to appeal to students in what Kaopuiki called the “transfer culture” of today’s higher education system.
Additionally, AU will be releasing a brand-new website this fall, the first redesign since the 2015-16 school year. The project has been ongoing since spring, and Kaopuiki said that feedback has thus far been positive.
He said that part of the new website includes “working to expand the storytelling aspect that we have” and that “the website will feature lots of stories to try and help students connect.”
The school also aims to foster more connection with prospective students by releasing a new mobile app, which will be rolled out in the coming weeks.
“We use apps for everything,” he said. “High school students are not emailing as much as they used to, and it’s all about using apps to connect.
“We know that connection for students, whether it be prospective students coming in or existing students, and their feeling of connectedness on campus, is foundational to their ability to feel like they can be successful in this place,” he said. “So we want to do everything we can for students coming in to have the opportunity to connect.”
In addition to making positive connections with prospective students, receiving feedback from them, as well as current students, is helpful for enrollment and admissions teams.
“Really, we are trying to solicit as much feedback as we can on student experiences,” Kaopuiki said.
“That’s really important for us to understand—not only how prospective students feel about and view the university, but how our existing students are. Where are the opportunities for us to improve and create an outstanding student experience?”
As for the increased numbers of new students at AU, Kaopuiki brought it back to the community effort of the campus over the course of the last year.
“One of the significant reasons we were able to be successful with recruitment this year was that our faculty stepped up in really special ways,” he said. “They met with every student that would come.
“The community here is special,” Kaopuiki said. “A lot of schools would say ‘our community is great,’ but everybody experiences AU as a special place. It’s not just the faculty.
“The admissions team has done an amazing job establishing relationships. The current students are always very welcoming. We hear comments from prospective students all the time about how great AU students are.”