The number of Depauw applications have increased in the past year. Comparatively, DePauw has received 5,434 applications this year as opposed to the 4,855 last year. Security deposits have also gone up this year: from 91 to 120. After last year’s small class size, these numbers prove promising to DePauw admissions.
Robert “Bobby” Andrews, the Vice President for Student Enrollment, is feeling positive at this year’s record application and deposit numbers. DePauw University Admissions has started a new strategy to head off low enrollment numbers again this year while improving the outreach between campus and the surrounding Indianapolis area.
“We have the most applications we’ve had in five years, the most completed applications we’ve had in five years, the most admitted students, and more security deposits than we had last year by about 40% more students,” says Andrews. Based on current numbers, the goal for the incoming class of 2024 is around 550 students.
Over the past two and half years, Andrews has been working on a way to recruit more students and gain more prospective interest from high schoolers on a larger scale. Andrews credits last year’s low enrollment numbers to a number of reasons, one being an overall low moral on campus during the 2018-19 school year.
“Last year, we were still coming off the issues surrounding the racial incidents from the spring of April 2018. That certainly persisted in everyone’s mind… and I know we lost a lot of students to the overall feeling of contempt and frustration on campus and that permeated across all of our efforts in enrollment,” Andrew says.
This contempt and frustration prompted negative social media coverage, forming another obstacle as DePauw tried to recruit new students.
But the issue of low student enrollment was not unique to DePauw University. Out of a group of about 30 liberal arts colleges in the Great Lakes College Association (GLCA) and Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM), the vast majority of schools during the 2019-2020 school year were down or barely recovering from the year before.
Efforts of “rebounding” from smaller class sizes brings concern about the continued reputation of DePauw as a prestigious institution, but with more applicants, the university can be more selective than in years prior. “We won’t compromise in the academic quality and the caliber of the students coming in. We’re fortunate to not have to make any sacrifices this year,” Andrews says.
DeeDie Dowdle has been the Vice President for Marketing and Communications for DePauw University since the fall of 2017. Dowdle notes that in years past, DePauw has lost connections with Indy high schools and neighborhoods due to a lack of visibility from DePauw’s marketing and alumni outreach.
To combat this issue, her office has worked extensively on “The Gold Within ” marketing plan, where advertisements have been placed on billboards, websites, and even on TSA bins in the Indianapolis Airport. “The strategy in Indianapolis was to reconnect with Indianapolis, because that’s our back yard and we wanted to rebuild and connect with that market,” Dowdle said.
With the implementation of the new plan, recruiters are able to have face-to-face interactions with prospective students, including visiting high schools and interviewing. To help with this process, the Marketing and Communications team provides the materials and publications needed to bring in a wider range of outside interest and raise DePauw’s name recognition.
A new series of outdoor billboard advertisements for DePauw have also been implemented, each focusing on prominent alumni and current DePauw students who attended nearby high schools. “We’re trying to make it more personalized,” Dowdle says. “We know what works well for us and what seems to be effective.” Another effective outreach was the DePauw-sponsored Indianapolis Colts and Pacers games earlier in the school year.
“We have to be efficient with the budget and stay within that,” Dowdle says. An effective way to do that is through the expansion of digital advertising. By testing the markets on digital advertising, they can calculate demographics such as where interested audiences live, the amount of times that each ad is interacted with, and provide follow-up ads and phone calls to the prospective student.
“We’re on the path and it’s nothing gimmicky or cheesy. We’re trying to build something that’s sustainable through consistent and better relationships with surrounding high schools,” Andrews says. While an increase in application submission and security deposits is promising, the impact of DePauw’s efforts to recruit prospective students remains undetermined until final numbers arrive in May.