As a part of ONU's SWOT initiative, one SEP subcouncil is looking at ways to improve the university in the classroom.

In an effort to improve enrollment at Ohio Northern University is leading a SWOT initiative to trace potential issues back to their roots.

The overarching effort is labeled as “Strategic Enrollment Planning “and Bill Eilola, Vice President for Enrollment Management is overseeing five subcouncils that were focused on different areas of enrollment improvement.

While the entire team meets every 4 to 6 weeks, each subcouncil meets periodically in between that time. The different subcouncils consist of: recruitment and financial aid, retention, international student recruitment and international student services, diversity and inclusiveness, and academic program development.

“A part of the SWOT analysis that’s being done is looking internally at our strengths and weaknesses, and externally at our opportunities and threats.” Eilola said “it is a process of trying to identify where there are issues, where we are doing things well, and we’re maybe there are some options to improve things.”

The initiative began in June, and Eilola says that by the end of April, the entire committee plans to have a five-year strategic enrollment plan put together that will be approved by the University’s Board of Trustees.

Eilola believes that the new initiative could cause positive changes on campus.

“This is really the first time we are doing this type of campus-wide enrollment planning, so I think it’s going to be successful.” Eilola said.

Each subcouncil is responsible for approving a distinct facet of ONU’s enrollment process, and each is headed by a well-respected faculty member. Here’s a look at what each subcouncil is working on.

Recruitment and Financial Aid
Chair: Bill Eilola

To improve the general recruitment of students to Ohio Northern, Eilola’s subcouncil is planning on getting the alumni more involved. By having to get them to attend college fairs, and getting involved with prospective students during alumni club meetings, Eilola believes that strengthening the relationship between alumni and recruits could help enrollment.

“We’ve said, we’ve got this group of people out there that had a great experience [at ONU], are working out in the chosen career, and are very successful,” Eilola said. “Wouldn’t they be great representatives for the university? How can we find some ways to connect students at the high school level with those folks?”

From a financial standpoint, Eilola’s subcouncil implemented a “Cost Calculator” on ONU’s website last month to help students get a better grasp of their tuition bill. While Eilola believes that this tool will help parents in prospective students become more aware of their tuition outlook, he also says the tuition will need to be lowered at the early stages of recruitment, as not to scare away the student.

“At the early stages, we think our initial scholarship offerings were a little bit too low.” Eilola said.

Chair: Julie Hurtig

When it comes to keeping students in rolled, Ohio Northern doesn’t have a problem after the student’s freshman year. According to Eilola, Northern has an 86% retention rate last year after year one. The problem generally rises after the students sophomore year, and what he and Julie Hurting, Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs, calls the “Fifth Semester.”

To solve this problem, Hurtig’s subcouncil is looking at fixing issues from the freshman year that could increase the urge to drop out or transfer after sophomore year. While some causes could be grade issues, sometimes students just need more support on campus.

International Student Recruitment and International Student Services
Chair: Lynda Nyce

For nearly every student comes to ONU from across the country or across the world, transportation is an issue. For LYnda Nyce, the Assistant Vice President of Academic Affairs, her subcouncil is focused on bringing a viable transportation service to Ohio Northern.

“What we’re trying to work out is a way to provide some regular transportation, locally from shop for shopping, or to go to Walmart or Myers for some basic essentials,” Nyce said.

Nyce and the council as a whole believes that keeping a strong international population on campus is important not only to the national student body, but to the university as a whole.

“it is important that international students feel welcome, feel comfortable, feel integrated into the community – that makes that matters a great deal. We are trying to prepare graduates to live, compete and work in what’s really a global society now.

Provost, David Crago, who is the chair of the Academic Program Development subcouncil said “So, as part of the education of all students, it’s important that they have an opportunity to interact with, deal with, meet, and try to understand students from a host of different cultures, because of the next 40 years of their business lives, they’re going to have to be able to do that in a way that allows them to be successful.”

Diversity and Inclusiveness
Chair: Adriane Thompson-Bradshaw

In making ONU a more friendly campus for students from across all cultural backgrounds, Adrienne Thompson-Bradshaw’s subcouncil is focusing on improving the university’s dining options. According to Thompson-Bradshaw, more diverse menu could lead to a happier, more diverse student population. Thompson-Bradshaw’s subcouncil is also looking improving diversity on campus in general. As seen in the graph below, the undergraduate population on campus last year was overwhelmingly white at 76%. But based on worldwide trends, Ohio Northern will likely need to focus on more recruitment of Latino and African-American students if it wants to keep pace.

Data taken from Office of Institutional Research's Common Data Set for the 2014-15 school year. (Illustration by Grant Pepper)
Data taken from Office of Institutional Research’s Common Data Set for the 2014-15 school year. (Illustration by Grant Pepper)

“Demographically, when you’re looking at the population is growing, it’s the non-white population,” Thompson-Bradshaw said, “so it makes sense if you’re going to viable in the future, then you’ve got to attract some diversity on your campus.”

To increase diversity on campus, Thompson-Bradshaw explains that her subcouncil is trying to find a solution through recruiting. They are trying to find the balance between marking material that reflects the student they are trying to recruit (one from diverse background), and also material that reflects diversity of the current student population.

While finding that balance is tough, Thompson-Bradshaw believes that progress is being made. “I think that we’re doing some good things and we’re going to keep those going,” Thompson-Bradshaw said. “But there’s probably always room for improvement.”

Academic Program Development
Chair: David Crago

To enhance the academic side of ONU’s enrollment mission, Provost David Crago’s subcouncil is looking at building from the inside out. Instead of forming new academic programs, the subcouncil was looking at ways to improve the current ones.

“Going from a standing start, requires more of an investment trying to prove what you already have,” Crago said. “Let’s invest in what we already do well and try to do that better.”

To do this, Crago’s subcouncil is finding new ways to increase the yield of students that choose certain majors. Within these majors, there are many students who apply, but do not eventually choose that major; the subcouncil goal is to find ways to increase that number.

There are also some majors on campus that are of high demand in the real world, but struggle in getting enough applications. Craig is sub Council is finding new ways to increase the amount of applications for those majors.

“We want to take a look at the kind of investments we need to make in those programs to be more attractive so that more students apply and enroll.” Crago said.

For Crago, increasing the yield and application rate of certain majors is much more efficient than trying to start new majors. It just makes sense.

These five subcouncils will have until April to work on finding new improvements to Owen use enrollment process.

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