High school guidance counselors are clueless about what Eastern Washington University has to offer students, a consultant says.
For that matter, so is everyone else.
Concluding months of research, Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based Stamats Communications Inc. offered strong evidence Tuesday that poor decisions in the past have veiled EWU’s strong academic reputation and cost it hundreds of students at a time when the school should have grown.
Stamats presented survey results on EWU’s public image, how the school compares with other Washington universities and its best bet for attracting new students.
EWU paid $84,000 for the study.
Stamats recommended that EWU concentrate on recruiting students from the Inland Northwest with a simple marketing plan that touts the university’s basic mission and most successful academic programs.
EWU could cozy up to high school and community college counselors, among other things, to mend its enrollment problems, said Robert Sevier, Stamats vice president.
“You (EWU) have a feeling that the whole world thinks you are bad news, but the truth is, the whole world doesn’t have a clue,” Sevier said while flashing survey results that showed Washington guidance counselors know little about the institution. This is an opportunity for you to “drive into that vacuum whatever (image) you want.”
In short, Sevier concluded, EWU has no discernible image or mission. Potential students, their parents and counselors, feel EWU is a good school, but don’t know why.
EWU, whose enrollment of 7,000 students is down nearly 1,000 in four years, needs to create a new image, Sevier said. It must accommodate a growing number of transfer students, or risk losing more students and revenue.
“You have a lot better faculty than your materials would let on,” he told a crowd of 75 staff, faculty and students on the Cheney campus. “Why don’t you sell that more?”
EWU’s top recruiter, Brian Levin-Stankevich, agreed with most of the findings, saying budget cuts in recent years crippled marketing and recruiting efforts.
“We’ve known there was a lack of knowledge about Eastern,” he said. “There’s an opportunity to go out and say who we are and what we have to offer.”
EWU officials on Thursday will travel to Olympia to plead for more money for recruiting from the Washington Higher Education Coordinating Board in Olympia. EWU is seeking release of $1.35 million held back by Legislators until the school developed a solid plan for boosting enrollment.
Stamats’ other findings included:
Transfer and older, non-traditional students will account for half of EWU’s future student body, while half of all high school graduates plan to commute to college.
This means faculty must be willing to teach longer classes that fit around student work schedules, rather than one-hour classes that meet four times a week.
EWU faculty, staff and alumni should be included in recruitment efforts, but there’s a disturbing feeling among those groups that the administration does not listen to them.
The school, with its Spokane campus and diverse programs, suffers from trying to do too many things at one time.
EWU’s regulations for dropping a class and getting financial aid are onerous. It also has the strictest transfer requirements in the state.
“You can be right and rigorously hold the line on quality, but you’re going to be lonely,” Sevier said.
Half of all Washington guidance counselors don’t know what academic programs EWU offers or how often graduates get jobs. One out of three don’t know where the school is located.
Bold initiatives to invest in technology and the Internet may be poorly timed for EWU.
“Statistics show that most Internet users are pasty-faced white guys,” said Sevier, himself a member of that distinguished class. “If you want to recruit students who have a life, or women and people of color, don’t worry about the Internet.”