Firm helps boost applications to UH-Hilo

  • Gomes

The University of Hawaii at Hilo has seen an increase in the number of student applicants — and acceptances — for the 2019 fall semester.

By the July 1 application deadline, Vice Chancellor of Student Affair Farrah-Marie Gomes said the university received 5,175 applications — an 82.9 percent increase over last year’s total of 2,830.

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Additionally, 2,823 students have been accepted, a 26.7 percent increase over the 2,228 students accepted by the same time last year.

Applications, however, are still being processed. Any applications received within the last two weeks were not included in those numbers.

“We are encouraged by these numbers, and we remain hopeful that our efforts on recruitment and retention are moving us in the right direction,” said Gomes.

Some of those increased numbers are due, in part, to the university’s work with EAB, a higher education consulting firm.

UH-Hilo is in the second year of a five-year contract with EAB, but Gomes said the 2018-19 academic year was the first year of recruitment efforts.

Gomes said EAB helps with first-time freshmen recruitment, but the incoming class also is made up of transfer students as well as returning students.

But UH-Hilo’s work with EAB has largely contributed to the overall increase in applications, she said, but they will continue to work on “refining the model to ensure that the students who are applying are qualified and have some intent to actually enroll at UH-Hilo.”

“So after our first full year, this is an opportune time to reflect on the outcomes of our work together so far and make adjustments in this next year to ensure that what we call yield — the number of students (who) actually end up enrolling in the fall — is even higher next year based on lessons learned in this first year of the contract.”

EAB is helping the university recruit students most likely to be successful in Hilo based on factors like location, types of programming offered, as well as the potential student’s GPA and test scores, Gomes said previously.

Gomes said Friday that EAB was able to help the university leverage its exposure and presence “in areas we couldn’t physically be” by identifying potentially qualified students in some western states as well as neighbor islands.

The organization “helped do some recruitment marketing to these students in addition to what our admissions team was already focused on doing internally.”

According to Gomes, the university was able to hire a permanent Hawaii Island admissions counselor to work primarily with Big Island students, a transfer counselor based on Oahu to work with UH community colleges and students from those campuses interested in transferring to UH-Hilo, and an international admissions counselor.

All three positions had been filled by temporary “casual hires” previously.

Enrollment has long been a challenge for the university, with UH-Hilo’s student population declining every year since 2012, when it peaked at 4,157 students after several years of growth.

But significant increases in application and acceptance rates won’t necessarily mean similar increases in enrollment rates.

“We are projecting that the incoming class of new students will be slightly up over last year, and we are putting a lot of effort in working with continuing students, (which is) where retention comes into the enrollment management formula,” Gomes said. “Recruitment and retention together equals our total enrollment in the fall.”

The university will also continue to work throughout the summer to contact students who have not yet registered for the fall semester, she said., “helping them through what some of those barriers may be.”

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UH-Hilo’s contract with EAB covers a five year period for cost of $1,595,410. The university is able to opt out of the contract prior to the start of year four.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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