This year, King’s reversed the long trend of declining first-year enrollment.
This year’s freshman class boasts 192 students, a two per cent increase from last year’s 188. Although this two per cent increase seems meagre, it’s an important step in the right direction for the university. At a time when most other humanities programs are bleeding students, even a small amount of growth is notable.
Julie Green works in the university’s registrar’s office, which is largely responsible for the recruitment of new students.
Green speculates that the increased enrollment is due to the efforts made by her and her colleagues. King’s new website, more visits to high schools and improved marketing materials are all part of this effort.
Perhaps the most spectacular and labour-intensive marketing campaign the office undertook last year was their letter writing campaign. Green estimates that each staff spent a cumulative week writing letters to prospective students.
“It was a huge undertaking,” said Green.
On top of the letters written in the registrar’s office, 24 university staff handwrote over 400 letters to prospective students. Authors of these letters included professors and president Lahey himself.
Selina Neve, currently enrolled in the Foundation Year Programme, was the recipient of a few of these letters.
“It made me feel that they care,” she said.
Neve recalls receiving handwritten letters on at least four separate occasions. Throughout the year she received notes checking up on her, a Christmas card and a warmly written letter of admission. Other universities didn’t even bother to send their letters of admission in the mail.
Neve’s reaction to the letters is entirely consistent with the goal of the letter-writing campaign.
“We are saying that we’re a more personalized community and that getting to know people as individuals is important to us,” said Green.
Another way that the university gives prospective students an idea of what they’re in for is by hosting lectures across the country. Neil Robertson, this year’s director of FYP said that the lectures aim to give people a sample of what FYP has to offer.
“You’ve got to give someone a reason, while they’re sitting in Toronto or Vancouver, why they’re going to spend thousands of dollars and relocate to Halifax,” explained Robertson. “You’ve got to give them that experience that will make them say ‘I want that and I recognize that I might not get that anywhere else.”
Despite the apparent success of the registrar’s office’s recent efforts, they’re not celebrating yet. One hundred ninety-two students in first year is better than 188, but neither are sustainable for King’s in the long term. Rough estimates by university staff place sustainable first-year enrollment at 250 students.
“We’ve had a couple rough years in terms of enrollment,” admits Green, “we recognize that it will take us a while to get back up to that level.”