Recognizing Four Campuses for Excellence in Recruitment, Retention, and Diversity
In 1989, RNL (Noel-Levitz in those days) wanted to recognize colleges and universities for their efforts in improving student retention and completion. The idea was that institutions showing exceptional innovation, dedication, and results with student persistence should not only be acknowledged but also held up as an illustrative example for other institutions to follow. That year the company established the Retention Excellence Award and began awarding institutions annually, with a public acknowledgement of them at the RNL National Conference. In the 2000s, we added Marketing-Recruitment Excellence Awards to acknowledge those who had exceptional approaches to campus marketing and student recruitment. With the exception of 2020, we have honored several institutions every year since 1989 for their achievements.
This year at the 2022 RNL National Conference, we were pleased to be able to award the certificates in person again for the first time since 2019. We awarded four, including a new award to recognize diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Retention Excellence Award Winner: Black Hills State University
RNL awarded one Lee Noel and Randi Levitz Retention Excellence Award to Black Hills State University, a regional public institution with an undergraduate enrollment of about 3,500 students. Over the course of the pandemic, Black Hills State University saw their high school recruitment pool shrink as prospective families hunkered down and held off on college decisions. This highlighted the importance of retaining current students with effective retention and student success strategies.
Black Hills State University partnered with RNL to develop a strategic enrollment plan which outlined retention strategies that:
- Provide students with professional academic advising,
- Offer tutoring, supplemental instruction, and faculty mentoring,
- Provide second year/second semester experience,
- Expand high-impact practices,
- Provide peer mentoring, and
- Extend career support and career-oriented work study programming.
This plan helped the university receive a 5-year, $2.16 million dollar Title III grant.
Black Hills State University has already seen terrific retention results. In 2020, the university had a retention rate of 65 percent and is on track to lift retention to 75 percent in the fall of 2022.
Marketing-Recruitment Excellence Award: Berry College
Two institutions received the Peter S. Bryant Marketing-Recruitment Excellence Award this year. The first was Berry College of Mount Berry, Georgia, a private liberal arts college with a student body of about 2,200 students. Berry was founded by Martha Berry, who once said, “the pursuit of hard things, difficult things, makes us stronger.”
Berry began its partnership with RNL in 2018 with the goals of increasing headcount and revenue while continuing to prioritize Pell students, out-of-state students, and students of color. The results have been impressive.
- Between 2018 and 2021, Berry’s first-year enrollment grew 48 percent, with record classes in fall 2020 and 2021.
- Net revenue increased by 44 percent.
- Students of color increased 90 percent.
- Out-of-state students increased 18 percent.
- High school GPA of the enrolling class has gone up three consecutive years.
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Marketing-Recruitment Excellence Award: Franciscan University of Steubenville
Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio received the second MREA honor. Founded in 1946 by Franciscan friars to provide educational opportunities for returning World War II veterans in their community, Franciscan describes itself as a small, private, “passionately Catholic” university. Over the past 75 years, Franciscan has grown but remains committed to its brand promise that students will be “formed professionally and fed spiritually.”
Franciscan remained nimble through the pandemic, addressing immediate challenges and ever changing conditions, while continuing to plan for the future. The university partnered with RNL to undertake a strategic enrollment planning process. The goal was to build a solid plan to emerge from the pandemic with a strong sense of direction to advance their mission.
- The collaborative approach engaged more than 60 people across the campus in both academic and administrative capacities.
- The strategic enrollment communication plan has been integrated into regularly scheduled campus bulletins to keep the community apprised of progress.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Excellence Award: Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech received a new honor from RNL, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Excellence Award to recognize efforts to increase diversity and better serve underrepresented students.
In 2015, Virginia Tech noted a disconnect between the diversity of it’s student body and that of the public it served. While the population of the Commonwealth of Virginia was 20 percent Black, only 5 percent of Virginia Tech’s student population was Black. It also wanted to increase the number of underrepresented and underserved students.
Virginia Tech went to work implementing a number of initiatives to improve campus diversity. As one of those initiatives, Virginia Tech’s enrollment team partnered with RNL’s financial aid service consultants to better understand how financial aid awards impact underrepresented students. With its careful focus on financial aid since 2017, the campus has grown its underrepresented and underserved population from 33 percent of its entering class to more than 40 percent of its students for the fall 2022 semester, all while maintaining a strong academic profile. The campus also increased the percentage of incoming students who identify as Black and two or more races indicating Black to nearly 9 percent.
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These institutions all partner with RNL. Our team works closely with them to help develop strategies and implement solutions that help them exceed their goals. We can do the same for you. Reach out and we will set up a time to talk.
Congratulations to our four winners for their dedication and hard work. It will be terrific to see a new set of institutions be recognized for their efforts in 2023!