Projected fall 2016 enrollment figures look promising

As of March 1, enrollment figures for the upcoming fall semester at Johnson State College have significantly increased across multiple categories, compared to the statistics collected on the same date in 2015.

In the past year, the number of applications has increased 29 percent, acceptances are up 27 percent, and deposits have gone up by 22 percent.

According to Penny Howrigan, who has been the associate dean of enrollment services at JSC since 1999, several factors have led to the highest statistical improvements she has witnessed in her 27 years at the college. “I can’t point to one thing, but it is many things,” she said.

One of the most prominent reasons is the early college program, which is now in its second year for the Vermont State Colleges. Under the new offering, each of the schools are allowed to enroll 18 high school seniors for up to 18 credits, tuition free.

The early college program became an instant success at JSC and, the 18 spots were quickly filled. They then were able to utilize 15 openings from Lyndon State College that weren’t being used, and became the first VSC school to offer on-campus housing for the students. After just one year, early college applications are up 34 percent.

“It is a risk, but we are just trying to accommodate the students,” said Howrigan. “It has been tremendously successful for us.”

But high school students are not the only demographic that is growing at JSC. First year applications from Vermont students have increased by 37 percent, while out of state applications have risen by 26 percent. In addition, transfer applications have grown by 5 percent.

Other factors that have played a major role in enrollment growth include new programs at JSC. “We added some new concentrations which have been really popular, like criminal justice, accounting, sports management, health and sports psychology, and pre-physical therapy,” said Howrigan.

Howrigan also gives a great deal of credit to JSC President Dr. Elaine Collins, who is in her second semester at the college and is already making a positive impact. Collins appointed Howrigan as co-chair of the new enrollment and retention task force, which is comprised of 16 faculty and staff members.

“When Dr. Collins came in, she kind of focused us more on fine-tuning our messaging and all of our communications,” said Howrigan.

The recruitment rebranding takes on many forms, such as college fairs, high school visits, on-campus events, and advertising. It also has involved more marketing via mail, email, and social media.

Additionally, there is a call center where current students call prospective students every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights. “Recruitment is a campus-wide effort and everyone plays a role in not only recruiting students to JSC, but in retaining our students as well,” Howrigan said.

Despite all of the positive trends, Howrigan doesn’t want to get ahead of herself. “To be up this much at this point is a really good sign,” she said. “But I am cautiously optimistic. I don’t like to get too over-enthusiastic because the challenge now is to yield the students.”