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St. Ambrose University (Iowa)

St. Ambrose University (Iowa)

St. Ambrose grew enrollment by 52 percent.

St. Ambrose University is a four-year private Catholic university in Davenport, Iowa. In 1998 it confronted a rapid decline in freshman enrollment. The new vice president of enrollment recognized the need to change how they approached enrollment. The entire campus was engaged to help identify and solve problems with the decreasing freshman enrollment and improving the university's academic profile. To accomplish this, St. Ambrose developed a strategic recruitment approach, using financial aid research to establish more competitive financial aid awarding structure.

Change management coupled with strong data

St. Ambrose has always been good at building relationships with students. However, they lacked the data necessary to build a strong enrollment in today's market. Recognizing this, they developed the necessary data systems to effectively track data and use it to make better organizational decisions. St. Ambrose developed a strong enrollment plan that outlined specific short and long term goals, established action plans, and set measurable milestones to accomplishing those goals. They also developed a financial aid plan to better address the financial needs of both students and the institution. This process led them to establish:

  • A detailed territory management focus with individualized counselor goals throughout the funnel
  • Expanded outreach to prospective students and markets with strong messaging that established St. Ambrose as the place to be
  • Better utilization of communication to students throughout the funnel
  • An enhanced financial aid program that assesses both ability and willingness to pay.

Facing the new challenge of managing the growth

The initiatives St. Ambrose implemented were extremely effective in not only stopping declining enrollment, but growing it to a point that the priorities are more focused on managing growth. With the initial success, the university was able to reinvest in the institution thereby driving further enrollment success. In the last few years, it has built or refurbished six new residence halls with more to come, three academic buildings, and the campus chapel.

Between 1998 and 2009, St. Ambrose grew enrollment by 52 percent, from 2,517 to 3,823. First Time in College (FTIC) enrollment grew from 302 in 1998 to 574 in 2009 with transfer enrollment increasing from 181 to 225 in the same time period. FTIC applications have increased from 900 to 2,135 with transfer applications increasing from 350 to 593. Residence halls were 47 short of capacity in 1998 and now are over capacity by almost 100.

In recognition of its efforts and results, St. Ambrose University received a Marketing-Recruitment Excellence Award from Ruffalo Noel Levitz in 2010.


Case study used with the permission of St. Ambrose University.

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