By George Mauzy
Norman "Kip" Howard, assistant vice president for enrollment services and director of undergraduate admissions recently departed Ohio University after more than 12 years of service in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. He accepted the position of assistant vice provost for enrollment management at the University of South Carolina, beginning in May. Howard has played a vital role in shaping Ohio University's undergraduate population, so Media Specialist George Mauzy asked him to answer a few questions.
What are some of Admissions' biggest accomplishments and improvements during your time as director?
Howard: Probably the biggest accomplishments are in the area of technology. Beginning with making an online application available about six years ago, this year we received over 51 percent of freshman applications online. We also have greatly expanded our Web presence and use of the web as an information source. With excellent collaboration with University Communications and Marketing, our Web and print materials capture the quality and tone important to getting our message out to prospective students. The addition of Recruitment Plus software that was purchased last year gives our staff the resource necessary to manage communication flow and analyze the effectiveness of various recruiting programs. It also allows the office to help colleges, schools and departments on campus manage their communication with prospective students.
Our applications increased from around 10,500 when I arrived to well over 12,000 currently. These numbers are the result of lots of good work by the admissions staff. Given the quality of students we seek here, the competition to attract and enroll them is intense.
What have been some of the office's biggest challenges?
Budget is still an issue. We have always prided ourselves in being "lean and mean" in our admissions budget. The last few years it became obvious that we had to step up our recruiting efforts. The University has been both understanding and helpful, but declining state revenue and increasing costs present a real challenge. The challenge is maintaining and even expanding recruiting in an era of budget restrictions. The increasing costs to students to attend are an important variable that must be considered when setting admission goals.
Despite the challenges, the University has a strong academic reputation. I sense much more willingness for academic units and others to assist with admissions efforts. I've always believed that to varying degrees, everyone at any university plays a role in attracting the next generation of students.
How has undergraduate admissions changed since you came to Ohio University?
Admissions is still the identification and attracting the quantity and quality of new student enrollments sought by the University. It is making students aware of the advantages of the institution and providing information in a timely manner to aid the student's college choice. Fundamentally, admissions staffs are guiding students through what can seem like a quagmire of admission and financial aid policies and procedures. We are not selling product, rather we are matching the student to the institution. The proof of the effectiveness can be seen in students who are satisfied with their college experience and students and alumni who let others know that Ohio University is a great college choice.
The means to communicate with students have changed dramatically. The Web provides a means to communicate on demand about a variety of programs and opportunities. On the other hand a considerable amount of time must be spent on maintaining and keeping the web sites current and interesting to the viewer. Having technical and creative expertise on the admissions staff is essential in this environment.
Ohio University has announced plans to increase enrollment in the coming years. What needs to happen to make that plan a reality and how will it affect the campus?
It seems to me that the question that will need to be addressed is the composition of any increase. To meet targeted goals, additional efforts will need to be made. To be successful will involve not only recruiting, but also aligning financial aid and scholarship dollars to meet the goals.
The University has expressed a desire to attract more out-of-state undergraduate students to increase diversity. How can that be accomplished?
I think diversity by any definition enriches the university. I'm a native of upstate New York and I would like to see more non-Ohio residents here. The reality is that cost is a significant barrier. And not just in terms of the financially needy. Nonresidents face a surcharge of more than $8,000 that puts Ohio University at a disadvantage when it comes to recruiting these students. It becomes an enrollment management issue. If it is seen as a high priority, then resources to recruit and provide financial assistance must be put in place. In my opinion, it will take both to achieve results.
What will you miss most about Ohio University and Athens?
That's easy. It's the people. Starting with the opportunity to work for a great boss, Gary North, and some great folks in our division to a hardworking admissions staff. Working with an outstanding group of financial aid professionals for the last four years has been a great experience. We have faced many challenges, often budget related. In that type of environment, it might have been easy to "guard your own turf." That never happened. Ohio University is filled with people who put the welfare of the school first. I think the University knows how to meet challenges and I see Ohio University maintaining and improving upon its record of excellence in higher education.
George Mauzy is a media specialist with University Communications and Marketing.