U recruiters will focus on local students

Nancy Ngo

Prospective student Nicholas Rognes sat in the University’s admissions office Wednesday waiting to learn more about the school.
As the Albert Lea resident whittles down his college choices — the University, the College of St. Thomas and Rasmussen College — he said scholarships might be a deciding factor.
And University officials are responding to the demands in an attempt to lure in-state students like Rognes by increasing the scholarship pool and enhancing undergraduate experience.
While school officials stress that serving the state’s educational needs is a priority, they have also witnessed a steady increase in the number of out-of-state enrollees. Meanwhile, the number of Twin Cities metropolitan area attendees continues to drop.
To counter this trend, University recruiters are focusing their attention on in-state students. Even if admissions officials get increased resources, little would likely go toward attracting out-of-staters.
“If we have an objective, it’s to get the best Minnesota students in our institution and then get them into the work environment,” said Bob Kvavik, associate vice president and executive officer.
In the last 10 years, the University has seen a decrease in the number of entering freshmen from the Twin Cities. This fall, 48 percent of enrollees were from the metro area compared to 63 percent in 1987.
Board of Regents member Michael O’Keefe said the University’s increased energy toward recruiting in-state students is necessary. The chairman of the regent’s educational planning and policy committee added that at the same time, it doesn’t mean out-of-state students are being neglected.
Ron Matross, a senior analyst in the Office of Planning and Analysis, said with the increased focus on in-state recruitment, other enrollment should not be affected.
“My impression is we’re actively going up in out-of-state enrollment anyway,” Matross said. “Over the last 10 years, we’ve become more of a national University.”
Students from the states that Minnesota has reciprocity agreements with — Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota — have increased their presence at the University in the last decade. Reciprocity allows these students to pay in-state tuition.
Wisconsin has the biggest contingent at the University. This fall, the cross-border students compose 23 percent of the freshmen population, up from 13 percent in 1987.
Of students coming from reciprocity states this fall, North Dakota had the lowest with 89 enrollees, or less than 2 percent. Illinois has the highest enrollment for states outside of the reciprocity zone, with 37 students.
“We clearly understand that we’re a state university and our first and foremost obligation is to the state of Minnesota,” said Wayne Sigler, director of the Office of Admissions.
Kvavik, the associate vice president, said the University has taken several steps to bring in students such as emphasizing classroom technology, four-year graduation guarantees and job placement.
However, University administrators stress that the best way to lure students to the school has always been scholarships.
The University already has $3.5 million in central funds committed to one-time and recurring scholarships for freshmen. Three years ago the University only allotted $1 million.
However, as Minnesota freshmen enrollment continues to wane, the increasing scholarship funds might not be enough.
“We have a long ways to go to get to where we should be,” Sigler said.
Sigler estimates that the University will have to designate at least $6 to $10 million in freshmen scholarships to stay competitive with other public institutions. He said his figures are based on informal discussions with admissions officials from other schools.
Sigler also hopes that the school’s increased visibility will also help do the trick.
Admissions directors send out nine recruitment officers to travel throughout the state during the year. This is three times more than they send out-of-state.
“You can tell where we put our money and resources,” said Patricia Jones Whyte, associate director in charge of freshmen admissions. “We have deliberately decided to go to students from the state.”
At the same time, University officials say they have no plans to upscale out-of-state efforts, the University recently added to their list of reciprocity states which could potentially continue the increase. Under a new reciprocity agreement, students from Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Michigan can go to the University at lower costs than ever before.