Wright State enrollment chief ‘cautiously optimistic’ about fall numbers

Wright State President Sue Edwards, center, presents at the Wright State Board of Trustees meeting on Friday, April 29. EILEEN McCLORY / STAFF

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Wright State President Sue Edwards, center, presents at the Wright State Board of Trustees meeting on Friday, April 29. EILEEN McCLORY / STAFF

After a 40% drop over a decade, applications are up, and so are signups for orientation.

Wright State vice president for enrollment management and chief recruitment officer Susan Schaurer is “cautiously optimistic” about next year’s enrollment numbers, an important issue for a university that has battled recent enrollment declines.

The early indicators are there, Schaurer said at the Wright State Board of Trustees meeting on Friday. Schaurer said there have been increases in the number of students applying who are coming directly from high school, and transferring from another institution and in the number of international students applying.

The number of students signing a statement of intent to attend Wright State as well as the number of students signed up for orientation is up almost 10% compared to last year.

Between fall 2011 and fall 2021, WSU enrollment fell 40%, from 19,511 to 11,469, according to the Ohio Department of Higher Education. In February 2021, trustees announced faculty cuts, citing student enrollment drops.

Despite the new indicators, Schaurer said she can’t guarantee that all of those students will enroll in the fall, especially given the inconsistency of the data from Wright State in the last few years.

Schaurer said the university will continue efforts to make sure students do end up on Wright State’s campus in the fall. Her office began a letter-writing campaign that will send accepted students a handwritten note in the mail signed by a Wright State student, staff member or member of the faculty.

“As we look at what indicates a student will ultimately enroll, it’s things like creating or completing that statement of intent, attending orientation and registering for classes,” she said.

Schaurer offered packets of letters to the trustees, and some took her up on the offer. Schaurer said a handwritten note like their campaign can make admitted students feel special and wanted.

“The students feel like schools want them,” she said. “They feel special. They feel like they really were desired by the university.”

The university has also been holding accepted student events and plans more for the upcoming weeks, Schaurer said. On Monday, there will be a “signing day” event at the Student Union for accepted students from 4 to 7 p.m.

Previously, there was an admitted student event on April 5 where extra chairs had to be brought in because people were standing in the back, she said.

Members of the Board of Trustees commended Schaurer for the work she’s been doing. Wright State announced her hiring in December.

Board president Tom Gunlock urged his fellow trustees, faculty, staff and students to participate in the letter-writing campaign, alluding to the need to pull enrollment back up.

“We’ve said this over and over again,” Gunlock said. “We have to increase the number of students that attend Wright State.”

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