Despite recruitment challenges, Fort Wayne colleges encouraged by incoming first-year students

Local News

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – With limited access to in-person recruiting, traditional Fort Wayne colleges are encouraged by the number of incoming students who plan to enroll this Fall.

COVID-19 restrictions forced local colleges to adapt their recruitment methods. Previously, recruiters and admissions counselors used a mix of in-person and virtual methods to connect with high schools students.

While campuses were closed to in-person tours, schools like Purdue Fort Wayne and Indiana Tech introduced a virtual campus tour option for students and families. Admissions departments also held virtual meetings with prospective students who wished to learn more about the school.

Around the country, most schools set their deadline to accept tuition deposits on May 1. Following that deadline, Indiana Tech Vice President of Enrollment Management Steve Herendeen is pleased with the number of first-year students enrolling next Fall. Applications improved compared to previous years, and nearly 500 first-year students submitted their tuition deposit.

“We weren’t sure that was going to be the case, and like a lot of schools we had some concerns,” Herendeen said. “But as of now it appears that we are not going to see a major drop off from the prior year.”

Not all northeast Indiana colleges abide by the May 1 deadline. Schools like PFW and the University of St. Francis are accepting tuition deposits through August. For these universities, this deadline serves as more of a checkpoint for the upcoming school year.

PFW has already accepted applications from about 5,000 students, which is on par from last May according to Vice Chancellor of Enrollment Manager Krissy Creager. Creager also adds the number of students who have already submitted their tuition department is up from the same time last year. Students who have not committed may be holding out to see if conditions improve regarding the pandemic.

“What we’re hearing from students is, ‘I’m going to commit. I just need a little more time’,” Creager said.

Meanwhile, first-year applications to USF are down compared to previous years, according to Executive Director of Enrollment Management Michelle Kuhlhorst. However, the university is still close to reaching their goal of 515 first-year students by this Fall.

“The way our staff was able to work with those students further down the funnel and matriculating them seems to be going very well for us this year,” said Kuhlhorst.

Local schools also believe their location appeals to northeast Indiana students who do not want to venture too far from home.

“The majority of our students live within 60 miles,” said Kuhlhorst. “I think that is a huge part of it, especially with the uncertainty of the pandemic. It feels better to stay close to home right now.”

There is still a degree of uncertainty next school. As the past year has taught us, cases could spike at any given time. Yet the success in first-year student enrollment is a sign that students are optimistic that they will have close to a normal college experience as possible come this Fall.

“(Families and students are) really clamoring to get back to the normal face-to-face experience,” Herendeen said.”

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