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MU enrollment looking better

Feb. 27, 2014 @ 03:17 PM

HUNTINGTON -- Marshall University's Board of Governors collectively expressed cautious optimism Wednesday upon hearing that early indicators suggest enrollment and retention rates at the school could remain steady into the Fall 2014 semester.

Admissions of first-time freshmen for Fall 2014 are up 2 percent from this time last year, according to information from Beth Wolfe, Marshall's director of recruitment, and Marshall President Stephen Kopp reported retention of the first-time freshman class of Fall 2013 was 90 percent, an increase from 86.2 percent last year.

The 2 percent increase in admissions equates to about 90 more students than last February, although that statistic was paired with the fact that tuition deposits from admitted students is down about 3 percent from last year at this time.

However, Ed Howard, chairman of the board's Academic and Student Affairs Committee, said that decrease may not forecast a decline in enrollment, saying it is still early for a first-time freshman to financially commit to a school.

"I know this is something we all are very interested in," Howard said. "That does not seem to be out of line. This seems to be the way it has been in the past."

Kopp, citing the improved retention rates, also expressed optimism.

"Indications are, if nothing else changes, fall-to-fall retention ought to increase about three or four percentage points over the current year, which is good," he said.

Enrollment at the school declined by 1.6 percent in 2011 and 1.8 percent in 2012, and Wolfe was questioned for nearly one hour by board members at their October meeting regarding concerns about enrollment in the face of cuts in state appropriations.

Board members at the time noted that the financial health of the university relies heavily on enrollment.

In his report, Kopp also presented the application rates for INTO Marshall University, a partnership focused on recruiting international students to the school.

Kopp said 109 students have applied to INTO Marshall's English language program for Summer 2014, compared to just five last year.

He also said, to date, 245 students had applied for the program for Fall 2014, compared to 46 last year.

Students who come to Marshall through INTO enter English language bridge courses, based on their experience with the language, before they can take classes at the university.

Currently, there are 210 students in the English language courses through the program, Kopp said.

Kopp also reported that the university has enlisted Noel-Levitz Higher Education Consultants for recruitment, marketing and financial aid assessments. Noel-Levitz has offices in Iowa and Colorado.

Kopp said consultants from the firm largely will assist the university in balancing its financial aid portfolio.

The Board of Governors also addressed other matters, including:

Kopp joined Marshall Faculty Senate representatives in a presentation regarding updating several of the board's policies regarding faculty tenure tracks and salary, which have not been comprehensively updated for two or three decades, Kopp said.

Eldon Larsen, Faculty Senate chairman, and Dan Holbrook, chairman of the Faculty Senate Personnel Committee, told the board that they, along with Kopp and former Faculty Senate Chairwoman Cam Brammer, have made several presentations to faculty on campus.

Among the proposals are amendments to the policies regarding a tenure track for professors which would be more merit-driven as well as a streamlining of faculty performance and tenure track evaluations.

In total, six policies would be altered for a more cohesive salary structure and tenure track for faculty.

The board did not take any action regarding the proposals, but they will be part of the board's regular meeting agenda in April.

The board approved a mid-year financial report that showed the university had received about $350,000 less in tuition and fees by December 31, 2013.

The report also reflected the $5.11 million cut in state appropriations that was approved by the West Virginia Legislature in 2013, but it did not reflect mid-year budget cuts to state departments that were announced by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin in January.

Kopp also applauded a partnership between the university and American Electric Power in a lighting project along 5th Avenue that restored the light posts between Hal Greer Boulevard and 20th Street.

Kopp said members of the Student Government Association expressed safety concerns about the lack of lighting on campus earlier in the school year, and the light restoration project was completed in January.

The next meetings for the Marshall University's Board of Governors are set for April 22 and 23, in the Memorial Student Center on campus.

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