Go with the flow

Less high school graduates force university to plan ahead

Story by Courtney Kueppers, Copy Editor

A decline in high school graduates means universities and colleges across the country have to figure out what the future will look like. UW-Eau Claire is no exception, interim director of admissions Heather Kretz said.

In the fall of 2011, Eau Claire admitted 77 percent of applicants; but in 2003 Eau Claire admitted 80 percent of applicants, according to the university Factbook compiled annually by the office of Institutional Research.

The spike in acceptance rates is not sacrificing the type of student admitted to Eau Claire Kretz said. The change is due to the national trend of fewer high school graduates, she said.

“We aren’t seeing that big of a jump in our profile of students admitted, so our average ACT and class rank of the student that is coming here is typically the same,” Kretz said.

The university must accept more students, currently at an 80 percent rate, so enough say yes to Eau Claire to fill the freshmen class.

Projections for public high school graduation rates show the decline isn’t going to spike back up any time soon. Throughout the Midwest in 2007, 1,123,261 students graduated high school. By last spring, that number had declined by more than 46,000 students, according to documentation from the task force.

The number of students applying to Eau Claire has been on a gradual decline since 2008 except for a spike in 2012.

Kretz said it is a concern for the university, but they are being proactive.

“We have been lucky to maintain the same quality of student that we are looking for,” Kretz said. “Some campuses’ profiles have dipped or they have had to decide to shrink their freshmen class, so that’s something that all campuses have to consider as state funds also decline and tuition dollars become more important.”

Chancellor James Schmidt called for the development of an Enrollment Management Task Force in January to tackle the problem.

Head of the committee, Alex Smith and also the math department chair, said the task force will establish a plan for under-represented students.

The findings of the Enrollment Task Force will provide a starting point for a new administration position, Associate Vice Chancellor for Strategic Enrollment. The university posted the position and plans to fill it by July 1.

Senior Emy Marier, student task force member, said students remain top priority.

“Since demographics are changing, the university is changing, but student experience is always the number one concern,” Marier said.

Diversity continuing to grow

Eau Claire has been a very traditional-looking university for a long time, Marier said. She said she has noticed Eau Claire is a difficult place to change quickly.

In 2013, the university Factbook reported 90 percent of Eau Claire students were white. The Factbook for the 2010-11 school year reported 93 percent of Eau Claire students were white. Heather Kretz said she sees this increased diversity as a success.

“Our applications have increased from multicultural students and our acceptances have increased, but we still aren’t where we want to be as a campus for multicultural students,” Kretz said.

Kretz said things are changing nation-wide and will continue to, but the university is working hard to “be proactive and plan for those things that are coming down the pipeline.”

“I think there are some really key things happening on campus right now with an enrollment task force, a new chancellor who is interested in having this conversation and an associate vice chancellor of strategic enrollment,” Kretz said. “All of those things are falling into place and all of that is to maintain this great place.”