Ball State University and Colleges and Universities and Education & Workforce Development

Ball State targets N.J. to diversify student body

August 19, 2012

Ball State University's year-old campaign to recruit students from New Jersey will bring just a handful of Garden State freshmen to the Muncie campus this year, but officials say they're laying the ground work for success in the future.

Ball State enrolled just two New Jersey first-year students for the 2011-12 academic year, and "it looks like we have six this fall," said Tom Taylor, vice president for enrollment, marketing and communication.

The university invested about $200,000 on the initiative during its first year, so six students might seem like a low return, but Taylor said the university is looking long-term.

"We knew this would not be an overnight process. We knew going in this would be a multi-year process. Would we like to have more than six? Yes. But compared to two, that's real progress," Taylor told The Star Press (http://tspne.ws/RtSN9P) for a story Sunday.

The enrollment numbers belie the gains Ball State feels it's making in one the most densely populated and wealthiest states in the nation. Recruiter James Atkins visited 65 high schools last school year in New Jersey, attended 29 college fairs and met with more than 1,000 prospective students.

From that, Ball State received 110 applications for the 2012-13 academic year, a more than six-fold increase from 15 a year ago.

Supplementing revenue by recruiting out-of-state students, who pay higher tuition than Indiana residents, is one of the reasons behind Ball State's initiative. Another motive is geographic diversity.

"We will always be a predominantly Hoosier institution serving in-state students," Taylor said. "But one way we serve Hoosiers students is exposing them to students from other backgrounds. It's also a great experience for out-of-state kids."

The university's strategic plan calls for 15 percent of the student body to come from out of state. The plan also sets goals of 5 percent international student enrollment and 15 percent minority enrollment, he said.

The university plans to spend about another $200,000 on the New Jersey initiative this upcoming fall and winter. The cost includes employing Atkins and buying the names of prospective students from sources like the College Board, which administers the SAT test.

As the New Jersey initiative demonstrates, out-of-state recruiting takes time, money and effort. It would be too expensive for Ball State to flood the entire country. New Jersey is an area where a lot of students tend to leave the state.

This fall, Ball State would like to bring New Jersey high school counselors to campus. Taylor and the director of admissions also plan to meet with groups of counselors.

"That will show the commitment we have to their schools," Taylor said. "They will get to know us on a personal level. It brings Ball State alive."

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