What could budget cuts and student growth mean for you?

By Deana Coan – 

The record size of Tarleton’s 2010 freshman class is making the budget cuts facing the university a little less painful.

The 1,427 students who enrolled last fall pumped millions of dollars into the Tarleton budget.

“This growth covered 51 percent of the cuts in the last budget,” said Denise Groves, dean of enrollment management. The growth, she said, saved jobs because the university only had to cover 49 percent of the cuts.

“We are more focused on providing strategic growth,” Groves said. “ We are getting a lot better at this especially with first time freshmen.”

Tarleton achieved the increased enrollment as a result of the strategic growth plan initiated by university officials in 2008. The plan included creating the office of enrollment management, which Groves now heads. That office is charged with implementing practices aimed specifically at increasing enrollment, such as an email and direct mail campaign that provides students with information tailor made to their needs.

Incoming freshman, for example, are receiving emails specifically about recruiting events, such as campus preview days and about admission deadlines.

“We didn’t have the necessary tools to communicate with students” said Groves.

“With the strategic communication plan, Tarleton has experienced an increase in campus tours of 139 percent”, said Groves. Participation in campus preview days has also gone up. “Those that take campus tours are much more likely to decide to come to Tarleton,” stated Groves. Many students and parents, she said, are “pleasantly surprised” when they come to the campus and see the new buildings such as the Thompson Student Center, Dining Hall, Recreation Center and Nursing Building.

“These improvements come with a cost. They are investments. In the long-term, they will help our growth,” Groves said.

Groves also said aggressively recruiting new students is an important way to offset financial aid reductions brought on by statewide budget cuts.

“Over 80 percent of Tarleton students receive some type of financial assistance,” said Groves. If the proposed budget cuts are imposed, they would reduce the amount of financial aid students receive.

“Last year, 25 percent of the 1,427 first-time in college freshmen received Texas Grants averaging over $5,500,” Groves said.

Tarleton officials say it’s difficult to forecast the total impact the budget cuts will have on financial aid for students since the budget itself is still being modified by the legislature. However, they also say as many as one in five Tarleton students could lose grants.

This fall, the university expects the 2011 incoming freshmen class to break records again, about a 6 percent increase in enrollment over the record 2010 class.  Overall, the enrollment for the university is estimated to be 9,620 students, an increase of 3 percent over last year.

The enrollment campaign has been focused on incoming freshmen, but the university plans to include current students in the near future to help increase retention rates as well.

Right now, Tarleton is “feeling a crunch with growth and cutting budgets. I think Tarleton will come out on top once we get past these growing pains,” Groves expressed.

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