For the past two years, Drexel University has welcomed its two largest freshman classes, but this will not necessarily be a recurring pattern, according to Senior Vice President of Enrollment Management & Student Success Randy Deike.
Despite a five percent increase of applicants from last year, with 31,926 applications received, Deike said that only about 3,300 students are projected to attend, which is equivalent to last year’s numbers.
“It’s not our goal to grow, grow, grow, grow,” he told The Triangle. “We’re about as large in a freshman class as we want to be.”
Though there will be about 23,000 offers made to prospective students, Deike and his team utilize advanced predictive modeling to forecast incoming class size. While doing so, he said it is important to monitor supply and demand and to balance the number of incoming students with university infrastructure and budget, as well as revenue goals and needs since a university cannot truly grow unless it is in a position to construct new buildings and hire new staff.
Though last year’s large class posed housing issues for some students, leaving about 74 displaced, the university is better prepared for this year’s group of freshmen.
“We are enrolling the classes we’re enrolling now because we believe we have the infrastructure to support them and because we’re trying to think about what comes next and how we best position Drexel for that,” Deike said.
The projections, which are based on historical outcomes, cannot always predict all external factors, especially with the ever-changing higher-ed market. However, the team is still confident that there will not be any housing issues considering the materialization of Bentley Hall, which will put about 380 beds on the market.
Either way, Deike said there will be plenty of time to enact contingency plans if necessary, since numbers are almost completely finalized in May and deposits are due at the end of April.
As of now, Deike said that he has no concerns.
“Right now I feel pretty good about it,” he said.
Deike said he attributes the increase of applicants to the changes recently made to the university’s recruitment strategy.
It all comes down to how the Drexel story is told, he said. In the past, the fixation was merely on Drexel’s notoriety to prepare students for the job market, which he said did not give a holistic view of a Drexel education.
“Telling a more accurate story about the real value proposition at Drexel is one of the biggest factors of the success we’ve seen over the past three years,” Deike said.
Simultaneously, the team is working to re-engage with the guidance counselor community and change how they award financial aid. In the past, most aid was based on academic merit, but they are working to invest more towards need-based aid to accommodate a wider pool of students.
Changes to the process really began for the fall of 2015 class, he said, explaining how the former strategy was to get as many students in the applicant pool as possible. They then made the decision to implement an application fee to act as a pushpoint for students and their families to really contemplate their interest in the school, which then cut the number of applications basically almost in half.
Since then, another major priority has been to concentrate on the entire life cycle of a student — from start to finish.
“It’s about making sure that we’re doing everything we can so that students can be successful,” Deike said.
The impact has been huge. Not only has there been a consequent increase in retention rate of students, but it has also translated into higher graduation rates overall.
But most importantly, Drexel’s success story comes during a trying time for the education industry. He said that the entire Drexel community should be proud to see growing numbers when some other universities and colleges are experiencing declines in application rates or even closing completely.
Higher-ed as a whole has to start thinking about curriculum differently and learn how to modularize curriculum to better develop stackable skill sets. However, Deike stated that Drexel is positioned better than any other school to take advantage of what’s coming — thanks to its over 1,600 co-op partners, ranging from an array of industries like business, industry, startups and even nonprofits, which can communicate critical skills necessary for success.
“With how the world is changing and how higher-ed is changing, I think Drexel is positioned better than any other place, so I think Drexel students should celebrate the fact that they’re here,” Deike said.
And the value of a Drexel education should not go unnoticed throughout these changes in the industry, he added.
“It has nowhere to go but up,” Deike said.