Admissions taking new initiatives to lure top students

Urbana faculty leaders commended the work of the admissions office but said the campus could do a better job of promoting its recruitment initiatives to the public and the Board of Trustees.

Senate Executive Committee members agreed that recent initiatives by the admissions office, such as one-on-one dialogue with prospective students, are helping the University’s goal of recruiting more qualified students. Earlier last semester, faculty members approved an enrollment management report that said the current process is generally highly respected and “not broken.”

Stacey Kostell, director of undergraduate admissions, told committee members that her office is focusing on giving personal attention to high-quality students, including those who have earned the James Scholar honor. This is done through personalized visit days and phone calls to prospective admitted students.

In addition, faculty have had an integral role in communications with these students, from a blog to individual appointments, Kostell said. Professors now will also be able to chat online with students that have expressed interest in their respective programs.

“I think it would be impressive for some of our higher admitted students to meet with a faculty member … They know what a faculty member is. They don’t know what a provost is,” Kostell said.

Committee chair Matthew Wheeler agreed, calling this something that the faculty has control over. He said this is a “straightforward process,” where faculty can recruit colleagues that would be willing to meet with admitted students.

Some of these initiatives were brought about from the negative perception of the campus’ teaching quality compared to peer institutions, which comprises University of Michigan, Indiana University, University of Wisconsin, Northwestern University and Purdue University. Out of the six institutions, the Urbana campus ranked last in teaching, according to admitted freshmen in 2010.

“It surprises me because I think our campus does a lot in relation to teaching, with the Center for Teaching Excellence,” said Kim Graber, University Senates Conference representative.

Senate Executive Committee members passed a motion to have the Admissions Committee work with Kostell and her office to compose a list of activities that professors could do to help sway admitted students to accept the offer.

To spread the word about the recent initiatives, committee members suggested inviting Kostell to an Urbana-Champaign Senate meeting later in the semester, which is streamed live on the senate site and can be accessed by members of the board.

Phyllis Wise, Urbana’s chancellor and vice president, added that campus officials are considering writing a letter to board chair Christopher Kennedy, clarifying some inaccuracies in the letter addressed to faculty last week. The letter assured that the professors will have input during this “ongoing dialogue” about admissions changes.

The presentation comes at a time when University President Michael Hogan is considering implementing admissions and financial aid recommendations to recruit more qualified and diverse students to all three campuses. But Urbana faculty has argued that some of these suggestions could diminish the campus’ identity.

Overall, the group agreed that it should wait for an official response from Hogan before issuing any further statement on enrollment management.