Griffin Gazette Enrollment Update
February 11, 2021
Last year’s February enrollment update started with “February is a busy month for the college’s enrollment efforts…” While many things are different this year, February continues to be a critical month in admissions and financial aid. Offers of admission for undergraduate and graduate students are sent out weekly, students and families are engaging with our offices virtually and in person, and financial aid is working with new and continuing students as they plan for next year. Additionally, new initiatives are being launched to grow new student enrollment and improve continuing student retention.
New Student Enrollment
As of early February, Westminster received nearly 1,700 first-year and transfer applications. Cohorts for the master’s programs in nursing and mental health counseling are being formed and applicant pools for undergraduate and other graduate programs will continue to grow throughout the spring and summer.
Beginning with Fall 2021 applicants, Westminster College offered a test-optional admissions path for first-year students. Approximately 42% of the first-year applicant pool chose this test-optional route. Adoption of a test-optional admissions policy means changes in how Westminster is reviewing applications and advising new students. It is also an important step in creating greater access for students.
Fall Enrollment Impacts
Nationwide, colleges and universities are seeing declines in the numbers of low income and first-generation students submitting college applications. While it is too early to predict how these declines will impact Westminster’s fall enrollment, early application numbers show that 30% of the first-year applicant pool and 27% of the admitted pool self-identified as first-generation college students. As focus shifts to yielding and enrolling the fall 2021 entering class, admissions will continue to be mindful of COVID’s disproportionate impact on many students and communities.
Graduate Programs Marketing Initiative
In support of graduate enrollment, Westminster launched a new graduate marketing initiative in January. The goals of this new initiative are to increase awareness of Westminster’s graduate programs and to increase the number of graduate inquiries and applications. This successful launch was the result of the collaboration between the Office of Admissions, the Office of Marketing, Communication, and Events, graduate programs, and the Provost’s Office. Thank you to everyone who helped launch this new initiative.
Beginning in March, currently enrolled students who completed the FAFSA or filed a continuing student scholarship application will begin to receive their 2021–22 financial aid packages. If students have questions about the financial aid application process or their financial aid award, encourage them to set up an appointment with a financial aid counselor.
New Tuition Insurance Program
As part of efforts to better support students who experience unexpected hardships, beginning next fall, Westminster will switch to a new tuition insurance program through A.W.G. Dewar, Inc. All students will be automatically enrolled in the program and charged approximately 1% of their tuition and fees. Covered students will be eligible for a 75% refund should they face injury, sickness, or mental health issues that result in a student needing to withdraw from all of their classes. The prior program required students to “opt-in” and had very few participants, leaving too many students facing unexpected hardships without coverage. The new program is “opt-out.” Students and families who do not wish to participate will need to complete a simple waiver process online (details coming) if they do not want this coverage. Many Westminster students encounter unexpected physical or mental health challenges each year and then also have trouble paying for their tuition. This coverage provides students and their families with needed protection for their educational investment and it is anticipated that this program will help them more easily resume studies once they are back to good health. For further information, contact Michael Santarosa or Joshua Montavon.
Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund
In January, Westminster received additional funds from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) under the second major coronavirus relief bill signed into law on December 27. Funding was determined by a formula based on full-time-equivalent enrollment and the total number of students who are Pell-eligible and not Pell-eligible. This round of funding specifies that students with exceptional need, such as Pell Grant recipients, must be prioritized for financial aid grants, although non-Pell eligible students may receive funds as well. Grants to students may be used for any part of the cost of attendance or emergency costs related to the pandemic. Students eligible to receive relief funding will receive notification from the Financial Aid Office. Additional emergency funding will also be available through a separate application process.
Veteran and Military Services
I am pleased to announce that on February 15, Mario Reeve will join the Westminster community as the manager of veteran and military services. In this role, Mario is responsible for building and supporting programs and initiatives to recruit, enroll, and retain students with military and veteran status. In this role, Mario supports student success by serving as the primary contact and advocate for veterans, active-duty military students, and dependents of veterans enrolled at Westminster. Mario’s professional experiences include working with Utah Air National Guard, Air Force Junior ROTC, and the Utah Military Academy. He is a retired member of the United States Air Force and is a graduate of Westminster’s Master of Education program. Please join me in welcoming Mario back to the Westminster community.
As we move into the spring, faculty and staff from across campus play an important role in the college’s efforts to enroll new students and retain current students. Like other programming across campus, admissions events will be a hybrid of in-person and virtual offerings. This is where we need your help. If you see a visitor on campus, welcome them and offer to walk them to the admissions office. If your office is on the tour route, take a moment to look around your office and notice what visitors see while on tour. Or, review your webpages to make sure they are up to date. In a recent EAB communications preference survey, students ranked college websites as the most valuable tools in their college search. Submit a web request for any necessary updates.
Thank you in advance to everyone who answers a call, responds to an email, updates a link, attends a virtual event, or welcomes a prospective visitor to campus.
Vice President for Enrollment Management