Update to KU Campus after Freeze Date and Capital Funding
My warmest greetings to the Kutztown University campus community.
We recently passed the freeze date (Monday, September 17), when we report our final enrollment numbers to the State System. I would like to update you on these numbers and on a few other issues.
As I have explained in my State of the University address on August 24, we have developed an Enrollment Management Plan and put great effort into expanding our markets for recruiting new students. We are all aware of the challenges we have with regard to demographics: fewer 18 year-olds, increased competition from other schools (more than 160 4-year colleges/universities in Pa.), and increasing costs. But our efforts in enrollment management, our new branding efforts (It's Good to be Golden), the attractiveness of current and new programs, and the tireless efforts of our university community have resulted in approximately 1,100 additional applications, and 125 additional deposits from new students this year. At the freeze date, our new freshman class increased by 2%, our transfers by 3.25%, and our graduate students by an impressive 14.5%. We were also up slightly in international students. Our retention rate was up 1% from last year and our persistence rate increased 2%.
We have had much success; however, at the freeze date we were down 20 students from last year, moving from 8,329 to 8,309. We continued to graduate a large class last year and just missed recruiting or retaining the number of new students to go over the top. Actually, we had 8,381 registered for classes. We lost 72 students in the first 15 days who either dropped out or we did not have evidence that they were in class. I am very grateful to the many faculty (92%) who verified the attendance of their students, as this greatly helped us confirm that our students were indeed here at the university. After dropping roughly 200 to 500 students each year since 2010, a 20-student decline is very good news and puts us among the best performing schools in the System with regard to enrollment this year.
I am sure many of us are disappointed, as we were so close ... but we have much to celebrate, as we have come a long way in a short period of time. I can't thank enough the many people who contributed to these positive numbers: the admissions personnel, those involved in retention efforts, those employees in financial aid, the registrar's office, and the many other units that support our students. I'm grateful to the physical plant employees who worked tirelessly to maintain our facilities and keep our campus beautiful; our marketing and university relations personnel and many others who continue to represent our university in a positive light, emphasizing the many good things we have to offer the next generation of students. I'm grateful to the mayor and residents of the Kutztown community for welcoming visiting parents and students. Our trustees were fully engaged in our efforts and supported our initiatives. Finally, I appreciate the work of our administrators, department chairs, and faculty who have put in the extra time and effort to help recruit new students and to retain the students we have. Indeed, we have come a long way and have much to be proud of, and I'm confident that at this time next year I will be able to share the good news of an increase in overall enrollment.
I would also like to take this opportunity to pass on additional good news concerning the future of our facilities at Kutztown University. As you all know, the commonwealth and State System have in recent years placed a number of major projects on the Capital Budget list to include: a full renovation of deFrancesco Building ($18 million), Poplar House/Visitor Center ($7 million), and the demolition of the old and construction of a new Lytle Hall ($25 million). We have just received notice that another major project from KU made it on the list to go to the Board of Governors for approval in October - the renovation of Keystone Hall. This building is in great need of renovation, and when completed will better serve the needs of both men's and women's intercollegiate athletics. These projects combined will bring more than $65 million from the commonwealth to help update our facilities. Kutztown University's contributions to these project will run more than $8 million. Of course, we continue to invest millions in deferred maintenance in our effort to renovate old buildings and deal with the inevitable maintenance needs that result on a daily basis from weather and age.
With an increase in new students, new programs, and the promise of major renovations to our physical plant, our future is bright. Once again, I would like to express my deep appreciation to all those who have worked so hard to bring about positive change and innovation at Kutztown University.
Dr. Kenneth S. Hawkinson
President Kutztown University