Written by John Stephen, Correspondent
VSU may finally be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel in regards to enrollment.
With undergraduate applications up 77 percent compared to this time last year, VSU President Cecil Staton says he is confident the university will see its first enrollment growth in several years with the freshmen class of 2016.
Not only have undergrad applications tripled, but the number of accepted students is also up by 18 percent compared to last year, according to Tee Mitchell, VSU’s director of admissions. Mitchell also said VSU has seen a significant increase in the number of attendees at this year’s Open Houses, which are events that allow prospective students and their families to visit VSU and experience life on campus.
Ever since VSU hit its peak of 13,000 students in 2011, enrollment has steadily fallen year after year, dropping to 11,250 students in Fall 2015. This decline resulted in the dismissal of 31 faculty and staff members last August.
Dr. Staton cites several reason for these declines, such as the economy, the choice of students to attend school closer to home, the lack of population growth in South Georgia, the increase in opportunities for online education, and the decrease in traditional college students, resulting in more competition for fewer students.
“There is no silver bullet to change these things, but we have chosen to take certain steps to turn this trend around rather than wringing our hands while awaiting further declines,” Dr. Staton said.
Mitchell attributes the substantial rise in applications to increased marketing and telemarketing efforts, continuous work by the admissions team, a new communications plan targeting prospective students, as well as Dr. Staton’s leadership.
Dr. Staton said his primary focus as president has been to solve VSU’s enrollment problem, which caused him to invest $2 million into an aggressive campaign to strengthen the university.
“I came to VSU with a marketing, branding, and imaging plan for the institution,” Dr. Staton said. “One of the things I constantly heard about VSU was that it was a hidden gem. We can’t afford to be hidden any longer so we are polishing off this gem so that more potential students and their families can learn about its vi