President Landgraf Discusses Increasing Student Enrollment

By Brooke Schultz

Next year, Washington College may have 440 new faces.

After a slight dip in enrollment this year — going from 414 to about 390 students — President Kurt Landgraf is working to increase that number with the help of VP of Enrollment Management Lorna Hunter.

“We’re working with Lorna and Rolando’s [Irizarry, vice president for college relations and marketing] group to do more outreach and a geographic concentration in the Delmarva area,” Landgraf said. “I’m feeling very comfortable that all the indicators are good.”

Hunter formally began her role on Aug. 15, and Landgraf said she “walk[ed] into the middle of the most important season for us,” and is “working 18 hour days to reverse the downward trend in enrollment.”  

With application season in full swing, Landgraf said they’re working on their outreach initiatives.

He said there has been a good first enrollment open house, with nearly three times as many students. He said that Hunter is making a concerted effort with the Athletic Department to up athletic recruitment.

“We’re looking at alternative ways to communicate with prospective students, [because it’s] important to position the school to highlight to potential students all the significant assets that we have, like internships and study abroad, and faculty to student contact,” he said. “We have as a tagline that ‘We’re Happy,’ which really seems to play well. This is such a fantastic place, with so much we can talk about, and more to come.”

With over 400 new students —and a goal of eventually reaching 1,700 total students — Landgraf said there would need to be more services for the student body to keep from dorm crowding and making sure the faculty-to-student ratios stays low.

“The concern I have with some first-year classes is that they’re getting quite large, and that’s not fair to students and faculty,” he said.

He also mentioned the laboratory spaces, which he said aren’t sufficient for STEM fields. He has met with every department to understand their needs.

“People who come to this college come expecting that they’re going to get a world class education, that the facilities are going to comfortable, that we have lab space for them, and our faculty have ability to interact with students; these are all happy problems to have if we can drive toward 1,700 students,” he said.

An increase in the graduating class size will also help the College’s revenue, he said.

“We need net tuition revenue, which has tailed off in the last couple of years, so we need to get this up,” he said. “We need to recruit more students and have a lower discount rate, which is what we’re concentrating on.”

Another component is retention. Landgraf said that, with higher discount rates, it’s important “you retain as many students as you possibly can.”

“I know the faculty and the staff are tremendously engaged and committed to high retention rates,” he said. “We’re projecting out 85-86 percent for as long as we plan for, which is key to sustainability of the College.”

Landgraf said that pre-orientation — which increased to 28 programs this past summer — aids with retention and recruitment.

“There was a terrific article in The Washington Post saying the most difficult thing for new students is loneliness, and this gives students a chance to meet a group of students and not be alone,” he said. “I hear stories that these students have become BFFs and still hang out. I think it is phenomenally important.”

This past year, 270 students attended pre-orientation. It cost $75 per student, according to an email sent out to faculty.

While Landgraf thinks the initiative is important, he discussed scaling it back some.

“After experiencing it this year for myself, I walked away with the following feeling: we need to build in more breaks for more people, by the time that week is over, students can’t wait for classes to begin, because they’re tired,” he said. “I asked Dr. [Sarah] Feyerherm [vice president of student affairs and dean of students] to look at the pre-orientation programs and see if we can make it more student friendly.”

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