Record Enrollment Growth in Roanoke, Virginia
John W. Dysart
The Dysart Group, Inc.
When I met Dr. Carol Seavor in November of 2003, she had recently launched her Presidency at Jefferson College of Health Sciences in Roanoke, Virginia. The College was very small, with an enrollment of fewer than 650 undergraduates. The physical plant was essentially one building which housed administrative offices, student residences, classrooms and labs. The institution catered almost exclusively to working adults. The private school was a bargain, charging students only $6,000 per academic year.
Dr. Seavor expressed a desire to make significant changes at the little college. Her plans called for academic program expansion, student services improvements, creation of a new meal plan, growth in the number of residential students and overall growth in the enrolled population.
The first priority was to increase the enrollment. A new recruitment model was introduced and designed to not only attract more qualified students, but to grow the number of traditional-aged undergraduates. The leadership team introduced a variety of changes designed to dramatically increase the number of new students:
• The College utilized the student search process for the first time to identify prospective students who appeared to be academically qualified and suited to the program offerings at Jefferson College of Health Sciences.
• Institutional grant and scholarship programs were significantly expanded to both recognize academic achievement and to meet financial need.
• A communication series was established to educate students and parents about the benefits of attendance at JCHS. The series included face-to-face meetings, direct mail, telephone contact and email messages.
• The institutional web site (www.jchs.edu) was completely redesigned. While it had historically been used as a source of information for faculty, staff and currently enrolled students, it was changed to also meet the needs of prospective students and families.
• Admission counselors were re-trained and teamwork was emphasized with everyone in the Admission Office.
• Faculty participated in the creation of the recruitment plan, but also provided additional training to representatives in the admission and financial aid areas to teach them about the specific attributes of each academic program.
• The billing process was improved and front-loaded to facilitate ease of payment for new and returning students.
The new approach produced results. Since the introduction of the changes:
• The number of admission applications has increased nearly 150%.
• New student enrollments increased to all-time record levels and the total enrollment at Jefferson College of Health Sciences climbed by 57%.
• The growth occurred during a period when tuition grew from $6,000 per year to nearly $16,000.
Enrollment growth created a number of challenges and opportunities. More students meant strain on the physical plant. Over the last few years, the College’s parent institution, Carilion Clinic, responded to this increased enrollment by providing three more buildings, thus expanding its residence capacity and increasing classroom, lab and public space for students.
Significantly more students and the desire to continue such growth led to new majors and concentrations. By 2007, five new degrees, two newprograms and the first of three new graduate offerings were in place. Understanding the importance of retention, Dr. Seavor and her team worked to revamp academic advising andcourse registration on campus. These processes are now automated and reporting mechanisms have been established to track registration for each student.
Student services have been totally upgraded as the number of traditional-aged students has grown significantly:
• The institution established a new meal plan for both residential and commuter students.
• Residence hall amenities were improved and housing capacity was expanded.
• The number of clubs and organizations exploded while opportunities for special events, lectures and activities quadrupled.
• Opportunities for students to participate in athletic clubs have been introduced for the first time.
• JCHS now has an official mascot.
Jefferson College of Health Sciences has been absolutely transformed under the leadership of Dr. Carol Seavor. Enrollment growth, program expansion, academic improvements, better use of technology across the board and extraordinary changes in student services have served students well.
Congratulations are in order for this visionary President. Dr. Seavor recently announced her retirement effective at the end of the year. Students, faculty and administrators at JCHS will miss her, as will everyone in the Roanoke Valley.