Higher deposit, longer recruitment, hands-on approach help secure stronger Wittenberg class

Last August Wittenberg University saw its freshman class erode and its budget sink into the red when 39 fewer students than expected arrived for the fall term.

That led to a policy change increasing to $500 the deposit required to reserve a spot and making it non-refundable.

The university is happy with the result: 590 deposits and a class it estimates will be 570 strong.

Executive Director of Admissions Karen Hunt, who works in a department where there are inevitable stresses, said the “the payoff” was gratifying.

“We’ve found we have a lot fewer students who are changing their minds,” she said.

But because that also delayed when the office received commitments and deposits from students, it was “scary” to go through it the first time around.

Hunt said the class size also was strengthened by a longer-term strategy.

“We started a new approach three years ago to work with sophomores in high school,” rather than waiting to contact them in their junior and senior years, she said.

Of immense help, she added, were the “personal touch activities” carried out as students parents were preparing to make their final decisions.

The university hosted receptions in which students and parents met with professors, alumni and other area families considering Wittenberg.

She called “the whole networking effort … highly successful.”

“Faculty were even more involved” than usual, she said. “There was lots of one-on-one outreach to students, emailing and phoning.”

Even with all the groundwork her staff did over the past three years, she said, “nothing replaces the personal touch Wittenberg’s known for” when decision time arrives.

While holding steady in its other traditional recruiting grounds, including the Northeast, Wittenberg had slightly stronger showings in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio, which Hunt called “the toughest (state), just because of sheer competition.”

If the 570 number holds, as she expects, “we would be pleased with that number,” Hunt said.