Bowling Green State University

Bowling Green State University Case Study

“Wonderful year” caps turnaround in enrollment and student retention

Bowling Green State University is a nationally recognized public university with a reputation for quality and value. Recently, after the emergence of several issues for the university, including increased competition, a new state funding formula for Ohio institutions, and a dip in enrollment and retention, university leaders came together to make some important changes.

Rather than focus on just one area, Bowling Green sought comprehensive improvements to strengthen enrollment across the board—at the undergraduate and graduate levels, in retention via the academic quality and preparedness of freshmen, and among specific populations such as international students and transfer students. To accomplish these goals, the university partnered with Ruffalo Noel Levitz to undertake a wide range of initiatives, including, but not limited to, raising admissions standards, reallocating resources, targeting and setting goals by region, increasing collaboration across campus, and using in-depth data and analytics such as predictive modeling and financial aid leveraging.


By making steady improvements, the university reached new heights in fall 2015:

  • 12 percent gain in new freshmen, an increase of 369 students, from 3,036 to 3,405, more than double the university’s goal;
  • Strongest academically prepared freshman class in the university’s 105-year history, reaching an average GPA at 3.36 and ACT composite of 22.6;
  • 14.5 percent gain in new graduate students, an increase of 114 students, from 784 to 898;
  • 4.3 percent gain in transfer students, an increase of 27 students, from 624 to 651;
  • 35.3 percent gain in new international freshmen, an increase of 12 students, from 34 to 46;
  • Maintained 20 percent level of multicultural ethnicity freshmen and 14.3 percent level of out-of-state freshmen, consistent with the prior year; and
  • 8 percentage point gain in first-to-second-year student retention over the past two years, reaching a historic record high.

Going forward, the university aims to continue growing its programs with an intensified focus on adult, international, transfer, and online students.


"Ruffalo Noel Levitz has been phenomenal in terms of helping us turn this around.”

"This year really paid off for us – it’s been wonderful. We had a lot of changes we needed to make. I feel better today about BGSU than I’ve felt since I arrived here. We had the support we needed to be successful—the strategy for enrollment and the right people to make it happen. We’re also going deep into the data to really target where we need to be.”

“Getting everyone pulling in the same direction was important for us. We needed faculty, students, alumni, and friends of the university all working together. I was a grassroots organizer in the ‘70s, and I’m still doing it, but I couldn’t have done it without Ruffalo Noel Levitz.”

Mary Ellen Mazey, Ph.D.

Case study used with the permission of Bowling Green State University.

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