Colleges alter recruiting tactics amid changes in high school trends

Students across the country are submitting their college applications and admissions departments are trying to get the best kids for their school.

The college recruiting process has been through some changes over the last couple years.

Schools have had to adjust to shifting realities to remain relevant to the changing student population.

The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education has been studying high school graduation trends for decades.

Over time, they've found the racial and ethnic make-up of high school graduating classes across America has become more diverse. The number of Hispanic students, in particular, has grown the fastest.

Despite that group's increase, the number of high school graduates, in total, has declined each year since 2012. This year is predicted to have the steepest decline. Nationally, there will be about 80,000 fewer graduates in 2017 than 2016.

These changing trends have forced colleges to think outside of the box and find new ways to compete.

Local schools have also realized the need to make adjustments to bring students to our area.

WSBT talked to admissions at Bethel College, IU South Bend and Notre Dame.

“The pool has constricted and we have noticed recruiting is more difficult. Enrollment is a more challenging process," says Toni Pauls, Bethel College vice president of adult and graduate studies and traditional enrollment.

“We really have to shape our applicant pools these days. So we’re much more interactive, proactive," says Donald Bishop, Notre Dame associate vice president of undergraduate Enrollment.

They each acknowledge that the high school population is changing and are adjusting their recruiting strategies because of it.

Pauls says Bethel College has added new majors and classes to meet students' needs.

At IU South Bend, admissions has increased marketing and recruiting through high school visits, college fairs and mailings. They've also added scholarships to help make the cost competitive with other schools.

At Notre Dame, Donald Bishop in Undergraduate Enrollment says they work very hard to shape their applicant pools, and every year they try to boost contact with new prospects.

"Are we getting prepared to go recruit in those states, in those cultures, in those socio-economic groups so that Notre Dame will continue to get the very top kids from the neighborhoods – but the neighborhoods are changing. So we have to change with that," says Bishop.

Now the big question is – are these tactics paying off?

Despite the recruiting obstacles, enrollment at our local colleges is still going strong.

"All of our indicators are tracking either slightly ahead or right at where they were at this time last year." Pauls says.

"The application numbers this year in early action were our highest ever," says Bishop.

IU South Bend is also reporting strong enrollment numbers.

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