By: , Vanguard Staff Writer
Student enrollment reached its targeted goal this fall. With the introduction of new student initiatives, Student Life and Campus Recreation hopes to build on the 3 percent increase from the previous year.
The student body has grown to about 10,800, keeping the University in line with projections for the incoming class. The total number enrolled won’t be known until after this week.
The dramatic growth of the freshman class in the last ten years correlated to the growth of housing. Last year, with a similar amount of enrollment, 1,210 students lived in housing. This year that number has increased to 1,277. SVSU’s decision to not build more housing means the University will now limit the size of the freshman class to 1,754 students every year.
“One way of looking at enrollment now is not so much what did you bring in the front door of the institution annually,” says Jim Dwyer. “But what also is going to be critical for the health of the University is how many students returned.”
Last year at this time, SVSU had 1,176 freshmen return from this 1,754 class. Expanded student success initiatives aim to retain as many of this year’s freshmen as possible.
Said Dwyer, “We have a very envious kind of university for many of my colleagues. So the real challenge we have now is to take the next step in the maturity of the institution and have student success as a main focus. … All of us have a role to play.”
Dwyer says he has discussed student success initiatives with several campus institutions including the faculty executive committee, the student government, business services and the library. Each of the Student Affairs departments has identified at least one goal or initiative that contributes to retention.
Online degree audits, online schedule planners and the peer adviser program have had a “significant” impact in working with the freshman class, said Dwyer, and new initiatives will be introduced this fall.
The week of Sept. 19, the first in a series of MAP-Works electronic surveys will be sent to students via email. Craig Aimar, Assistant Vice President Director of Retention, says the surveys measure social, psychological and academic factors affecting retention. Aimar said between 60 and 120 universities in the nation use MAP-Works, including Central Michigan University and Grand Valley State University.
“[Survey questions] ask everything from do you like where you’re living, are you homesick, what is your grade expectation, have you met with the faculty, what was your ACT score, what do you expect your GPA to be, all kinds of different things, including are you an athlete and playing any sports on campus,” Aimar said. “It’s kind of like a video game for the students. It’s very interactive.”
FERPA restrictions limit access to students’ academic information, so not everyone can see or advise on students’ survey responses. For example, resident assistants cannot access ACT scores or GPAs. The survey results provide talking points for RAs, academic advisers, Multicultural Student Services staff and peer advisers who will work with about 40 students each.
“They want to make contact at that point, not really to dwell on any weakness,” Aimar said. “Because the other thing it gives us is the strengths…if they say they are really involved on campus. Things like that we can kind of parley that into working on any weakness.”
Upperclassmen who want to mentor or to support can become an RA, volunteer to tutor, or get students involved in clubs.
Aimar said, “We know if a student becomes connected and they develop a network and they really enjoy it, they are taking ownership of their education and they usually do well. So we encourage the students to encourage these freshmen not to overdo it but to get involved in their interests.”
Dean of Students Merry Jo Brandimore says her Student Affairs staff will be among those identifying and establishing interventions with students who identify as at-risk in terms of their success and potential. Her division will also introduce new student success initiatives.
Campus Recreation has created two new programs for freshmen only: the Freshman Wilderness Adventure outdoor recreation experience and FIT into College which will aims to help freshmen “learn the value, fun, and simplicity of leading a healthy lifestyle.”
New and improved leadership development programs will be unveiled this year as well. SVSU is now an affiliate of the National Society for Leadership and Success, which provides “an upscale series of leadership development opportunities for all students.”
The Student Life Center is adding four student interns, each with a specific role such as RED PRIDE programs, Community Service, and LGBT programs and Leadership. These “Student Engagement Interns” offer outreach to students looking for how and where to become involved.
For registered student organizations and their members, Student Life will introduce a new networking software tool called “SVSU Community.” This resource is intended to make it easier to learn about opportunities for students to learn about or join and RSO at SVSU, said Brandimore. Members will be able to post activities and have contact links so prospective students can express their interest and establish direct contact with a recruitment officer.
The Dean of Students office is also sponsoring a reward incentive for registered RSOs. There will be a $100 award each week to RSOs who sponsor “Student Success Programs” for their membership or students in general.
“It is exciting that I still, from the bottom of my heart, think that we’re a great choice,” said Dwyer. “The people that come here feel incredibly good about what we can offer students and the services we can provide.”