Even after an accidental over-enrollment for 2012-2013, JMU is still expecting higher numbers in the coming years.
Last fall, 18,107 undergraduates enrolled — an increase from the 17,900 undergraduates last year, according to JMU Admissions. The projected enrollment for this year was 17,667 students.
Michael Walsh, dean of admissions, said JMU saw an unexpected increase in both in- and out-of-state student enrollment and a decline in the “melt,” or the group of students that pay a deposit before the May deadline but ultimately decide not to attend JMU.
“We saw the out-of-state enrollment jump 4.5 percent,” Walsh said.
To accommodate the increase in students, JMU needed to come up with solutions, like pairing freshmen with RA roommates in the fall semester and placing students in both temporary and permanent triples.
The growth isn’t going to stop there. The projected undergraduate enrollment for next year is 18,361 students, with 4,723 of those being first-year students, according to JMU Institutional Research.
JMU runs against national enrollment trends in which half of colleges and universities in the U.S. expect enrollment for full-time students to decline, according to a recent survey conducted by Moody’s Investor’s Service.
A major reason is because middle-income families are trying to balance college and everyday life expenses, Walsh explained. JMU’s tuition for in-state undergraduates has increased from $4,224 to $4,404 this year and from $10,869 to $11,389 for out-of-state students.
“For the first time since the ’60s, the percentage of high school students who see college as not attainable because of cost has gone up,” Walsh said.
Walsh listed campus tours as one of the most effective tools in keeping enrollment up, though recruitment tactics have evolved in the past few years.
“If students visit before Dec. 31, the chances double that they will attend,” Walsh said.
The student recruitment process was revamped in 2002, focusing more on academics and opportunities at JMU. It changed again in 2010, focusing on how the university presented the information through technology and current JMU students to connect to visiting prospective students.
During a visit to campus, Walsh explained, prospective students hear about academics from faculty through video and having faculty talk directly to the students. JMU Admissions relies on tours and on-campus interaction as a way to allow prospective students to experience student life.
Alexandra Pagnotta, a freshman athletic training major, said the campus tours are what makes JMU attractive to prospective students because students can get a feel of what it’s like to be at JMU.
“The welcoming feeling on the tour and the overall look of the campus attracts students,” Pagnotta said.
Eastern Mennonite University is also experiencing an increase in enrollment. Andrea Wenger, director of Marketing and Communication of EMU, said EMU is seeing a slow and steady growth in traditional undergraduate enrollment over the past few years.
Like JMU, EMU attributes much of the success to campus visits. In 2011, EMU had an enrollment of 1,605 compared to 1,589 in 2010, according to EMU News. “We have a goal of growing to 1,000 undergrads in the very near future,” Wenger said.
“The most successful strategy for recruitment is getting a student to visit campus.” Pagnotta thinks JMU should also continue trying to increase the enrollment, but it needs to make more room for students on campus.
“They need more on-campus housing for both first-year and upperclassmen so that more people can live on campus,” Pagnotta said.
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