University of Mary Washington (Virginia)

University of Mary Washington (Virginia) Case Study

Record-breaking enrollment in a competitive East Coast environment

The University of Mary Washington (UMW) is a public liberal arts university in a region that has many excellent colleges and universities. Not surprisingly, the competition for students is substantial.

When enrollment at the university recently began to dip, administrators realized that they needed to make greater use of data to guide their enrollment strategy. At the same time, they also made the decision to stay focused on their historic target: high-achieving students who want an outstanding liberal arts experience.


In the first year of their partnership with Ruffalo Noel Levitz, the university’s enrollment team undertook a multi-pronged, data-driven strategy, employing financial aid leveraging, new search strategies, and a new CRM. Also during the first year, the university conducted a national search for a permanent Associate Provost for Enrollment Management. The new AVP arrived in May towards the end of year one of the partnership. With many changes to manage, the first year kept everyone busy building up the university’s infrastructure while receiving expert consultation along the way.

In year two, resources were shifted, new opportunities were identified, and plans began to be implemented for recruitment, marketing, IT, and staffing, as the entire campus worked together to build more effective and efficient processes. In addition, a Ruffalo Noel Levitz predictive model was added. This model rated each applicant’s likelihood to enroll.


The second year of the partnership brought the payoff. By working diligently toward its goal, the university brought a dramatic end to its declining enrollment trend in fall 2015:

  • Enrolled the largest freshman class in the 107-year history of the university, rising 17.8 percent in one year (up 151 students, from 850 to 1001)
  • Doubled the number of freshman honors students
  • Maintained the college’s average SAT and GPA
  • Approximately 24 percent of the class is ethnically diverse, an increase from the previous year
  • The increase included sizable gains in in-state freshmen, out-of-state freshmen, and international freshmen

Going forward, the university is focused on sustaining its enrollment growth and accomplishing a steadier pattern of enrollment with fewer ups and downs. Specifically, administrators plan to create a strategic enrollment plan that will align, even more closely, the efforts and resources of academic affairs, student affairs, and the business office.

Published with the permission of the University of Mary Washington

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