By Monica Chapman
The search for a leader who can take Ohio University's enrollment strategies to the next level has successfully culminated in the appointment of Craig Cornell, who will be the university's first vice provost for enrollment management.
The Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost created the position to oversee the offices of undergraduate admissions, the university registrar and student financial aid and scholarships.
Cornell will be responsible for developing and implementing a comprehensive student enrollment and retention model, enhancing student services as they relate to enrollment, and improving the quality of the undergraduate student population. Cornell will begin work on May 28.
Many universities have a similar model for enrollment management, in which one "point person" streamlines and coordinates the efforts of admissions, registration and financial aid as they pertain to enrollment, interim Executive Vice Provost David Descutner said.
Developing a comprehensive enrollment management plan is an important part of Year One of the Five Year Vision Ohio Implementation Plan, and many of the University System of Ohio accountability measures relate to recruitment and retention.
"Enrollment managers are in high demand and short supply. We have been searching for the right person for this position for several years, and we welcome Craig to our team," Executive Vice President and Provost Kathy Krendl said, calling Cornell an "excellent match" for what the university wants to accomplish. "His broad experience in enrollment management and, in particular, his expertise in leveraging financial aid funds, will provide Ohio University with a valuable resource as we move into an even more competitive recruitment environment."
Cornell's student financial aid expertise is particularly relevant at a time when the economy and financial aid sources are strained. According to Cornell, this year saw a significant change in funding for private student loans. The Wall Street Journal reported April 24 that approximately 50 student lending companies were withdrawing from the government-backed student-loan business.
Legislative changes in lender subsidies coupled with a lack of liquidity in the markets -- a result of the mortgage crisis -- have caused higher interest rates and lower borrower benefits for students, Cornell said.
"Many students have to rely on private loans in addition to the government guaranteed loan programs in Ohio to make ends meet," Cornell said. "The current market issues will cause many students to have higher interest rates on private loans than in the past, which may cause some students and families concern."
Demographics are another area Cornell is watching. Enrollment figures in the Midwest have peaked, he said, and are expected to decline over the next five to 10 years.
"For years the national and even Ohio enrollment trends have been positive," he said. "However, with the anticipated leveling off and decline in Ohio and the Midwest, coupled with the fact that students are comfortable looking at schools both in and out of state, (we must) showcase to prospective students all the opportunities and promise Ohio University has to offer them."
Cornell's plan for increasing enrollment emphasizes high-tech and high-touch services in addition to significant data analysis. Through improved technology, he hopes to increase accessibility to university admissions, course registration and student financial aid. High-touch services refer to the human element. Cornell stresses the importance of having knowledgeable and friendly staff members on hand to address student concerns in person.
"The goal is to develop processes and procedures that minimize bottlenecks and disruptions to the student so they can focus on their academics," Cornell said. "We also want to look carefully at what makes our students come to, stay and graduate from Ohio University. This analysis will help us to better serve their needs, and in turn, allow them to be more happy and successful with their Ohio University experience."
Cornell has more than 15 years experience working in enrollment and financial aid for higher education. Fourteen of those years were spent at Kent State University (in positions ranging from financial aid officer to associate director of compliance and technology development in Student Financial Aid) and Bowling Green State University, where he was director of Student Financial Aid.
He holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Akron and a master's degree in education from Kent State, and has consulted, published and presented at all levels. His program at Kent State was recognized as an "Institutional Model of Quality" by the U.S. Department of Education.
Most recently, Cornell was associate vice president of enrollment solutions for Petersons, a company specializing in developing enrollment services for colleges and universities across the United States.
"Craig met all of my criteria," Descutner said. "He is a knowledgeable and experienced admissions professional. He is familiar with the culture (of education) in Ohio. He has advanced research skills and knows how to use data gleaned from research to make informed decisions."
Ohio University has never had a single person to provide leadership and strategic thinking on enrollment issues, noted Descutner, who was one of three individuals to manage the responsibilities of enrollment management while a search to fill the position was under way. Descutner also served on the selection committee for the new post.
"Through the interview process, I was able to see clearly that the whole institution was very aware of the need for an enrollment management approach. That's my background, experience and my educational training," Cornell said. "I was excited by the energy at OU. This is something I really want to be a part of."
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