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Turning around WIU's Enrollment

Rich Egger
Doug Freed. "We want to meet the students where they are and provide the services and the support and the education that would help them wherever they are in their lives."

Doug Freed will lead Western Illinois University's efforts to attract more students. Freed is WIU's new Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Enrollment Services.

Freed said he has spent his career working in admissions, enrollment, and enrollment marketing at community colleges and four-year institutions. He said he considers the job at Western a “professional challenge” and a great opportunity.

“I sensed during my (job) interview that there were a lot of people who wanted to help. They wanted some guidance. They wanted to be able to do some things a little differently than they had done in the past,” Freed told reporters during a Q-and-A session.

“From a professional standpoint, that is really attractive to me to be able to have the opportunity to do some things differently in that admissions and enrollment area and bring in my experiences from the past.”

Here are a few more excerpts from the interview session:

TSPR: You’ve been in town for about a month and you’re already talking about doing some things differently. What sort of things are you already looking at?

Freed:  One of the things that we’re doing is we’re looking at our communication plans and our communication flows. We are looking at making sure that we are aligned with texting, email, personal contact, on-campus visits, and things of that nature. We’re really being intentional about our communication and getting students to campus.

We are implementing a new piece of software called CRM, or Customer Relationship Management, software this summer. And that will enable us to communicate better with students, more frequently, and then to be able to track those communications.

We did a mini-campaign a couple weeks ago combining all those elements and we in one week had a 250% increase in applications compared to the same time, the same week last year.

So, again, aligning those things. We’re not just doing an email here and a text later but trying to get all those things aligned I think is something we’re really looking at.

TSPR: How important is it to get students actually to the campus? Do you find students are more likely to come to Western if they’ve actually been to the campus?

Freed: Yes, that is super important to us. We really want to bulk up our campus visit programs. We have programs already – Discover Western, we offer daily campus tours, we have special programs created by our academic departments. We want to make every possible effort to get students here because we think once students are here they can really see the opportunities that are available.

The literature forever in higher education has talked about the number one driver of student enrollment is getting students to visit campus.

We provide students train tickets so they can come if they’re on the train route from Chicago or other places to the east or to the south from Quincy so that students can get here. Actually this summer we are pushing again for students to come to our orientation program on August 1.  We are offering train tickets for anybody who wants to come here. That’s one of the new things that we’ve already implemented for this fall.

TSRP: How large is the projected freshman class?

Freed:  Things are changing daily. We are looking at level new student enrollment across everything – across freshmen, transfer, graduate (students). It’s probably too early to actually predict a final class. We are certainly looking at – if it’s a decrease – a much small decrease than we’ve had in the past and a much smaller decrease than I think was originally thought once the numbers all shake out.

TSPR: Do you want students to come to the Macomb or Quad Cities campuses rather than taking courses on-line? Is there something you feel students gain from actually attending a physical location?

Freed: There are certainly differences in terms of on-line or in-person education. In terms of our thoughts for enrollment, we want to meet students where they are. So if on-line works for students, then we want the students to take classes on-line. If they want to come to campus and have the campus experience here (and) live on-campus, that’s great too. If they want to commute to this campus or commute in the Quad Cities or there are even some residential facilities near the Quad Cities (campus) that aren’t university owned, we’re fine with that too.

We want to, again, meet the students where they are and provide the services and the support and the education that would help them wherever they are in their lives. Some students may not be able to pack up and move from two hours away to come here to campus. But that’s fine. We can help and support you with on-line classes.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.