By SHANNON VENEGAS
Mount Mary College graduate enrollment increased 14 percent this year, contrary to decreasing nationwide graduate averages and Mount Mary’s current undergraduate enrollment.The growth in the graduate program is attributed to several factors, including the level of concentration within each program and faculty reputation.Meanwhile, the college is developing ways boost its dwindling undergraduate enrollment.
Nationwide, graduate enrollment dropped 2 to 3 percent in 2011. Mount Mary is defying this standard with 587 graduate students compared to last year’s 529 students.
Of Mount Mary’s 587 graduate students, counseling is the largest graduate program with 158 students. Doug Mickelson, associate dean for graduate education, cited several reasons for such a great response to the graduate programs.
“All of our graduate programs are connected to professional and career opportunities available throughout the Milwaukee area and Southeastern Wisconsin,” Mickelson said. “Part of that is evidenced by the development of concentrations within the degree programs in response to the professional and career opportunities here in the Milwaukee area.”
Another reason for such enthusiastic graduate enrollment is the graduate faculty. Not only do they offer a flexible year-long class schedule, but they also are experienced in their field.
“The faculty are active in their profession,” Mickelson said. “And consequently, they all bring real life experiences to the classroom. They pride themselves on their accessibility and availability to the students.”
Mickelson also said the graduates’ success in their particular career areas speaks for itself and often draws new students.
Mickelson also commended the work of the graduate admission team, specifically Judy Borawski, director of graduate admissions, and Landa Evers, graduate admissions counselor.
According to Borawski, the graduate department utilizes a number of outlets to advertise graduate programs at Mount Mary.
During Mount Mary Open House gatherings, the graduate program holds breakout sessions to allow students interested in certain areas to meet with program directors. Program directors also advocate the programs when they travel nationally and internationally to conferences.
In addition to visiting graduate college fairs, thte graduate department also works with the marketing department to place advertisements. Evers, a graduate of Mount Mary, heard about the college through the radio and an open house.
Looking to the future, Mickelson said Mount Mary plans to add a rehabilitation counseling concentration to the counseling program. And eventually, with Mount Mary becoming a university, it will begin to look into a doctorate in counseling.
Anne Koenings, an English graduate student, was attracted to Mount Mary not only for its great location but also for the fact that she could work and live at the college while attending as a student. Koenings works as a graduate assistant for Student Engagement. She is also a tutor in the student success center and a test proctor.
“I decided to come to Mount Mary for its unique writing program,” Koenings said.
Conversely, as graduate enrollment rises, undergraduate enrollment dropped from 1,327 in 2011 to 1,053 in 2012.
According to Dave Wegener, director of Enrollment Services, the majority of the drop in undergraduate enrollment is due to decreasing nursing majors. With the change in the agreement with Columbia College of Nursing in fall 2011, allowing students to enroll at CCON from any college, enrollment in the nursing program at Mount Mary has declined. Enrollment in other programs has remained flat.
Methods to Increase Enrollment
Mount Mary is working on a variety of efforts to boost numbers by getting the word out about its valuable undergraduate programs.
The college is completing a new branding project to coincide with the university changeover for a creative look to appear in a family of publications, as well as for radio, television and billboards. Creativity will also be woven into the classroom setting.
According to Wegener, the new Mount Mary brand will surround the “creative campus” discussions and employ “creativity” in its phrasing. Final design concepts will employ new colors, font, concepts and taglines. Mount Mary hopes this fresh, new look will attract more numbers.
Another solution to decreasing enrollment is through the use of institutional referral programs.
“The idea is to have folks who know us in each of these referral campaigns to identify young women who they think would be a good match for the institution,” Wegener said.
With a new creative branding approach and the changeover to a university, the hope is that Mount Mary undergraduate enrollment will pick up and continue to rise.
“As we become a university … it will elevate our whole presence,” Mickelson said.