Dr Ted Lewis Addresses AACC Annual Conference

                Bluefield State College has reversed a decade-long decline in enrollment and, over the past three years, the College has become West Virginia’s fastest-growing public institution of higher education.  Earlier this month, Dr. Ted Lewis addressed a national audience of college administrators at the annual American Association of Community Colleges Conference in New York City.  His topic — “How Bluefield State College Increased Enrollment During a Pandemic.” Lewis’s address was at the invitation of the National Alliance of Community and Technical Colleges, an organization of which he is past board chair.

                Lewis, Provost and Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs at Bluefield State, noted, “Two processes—admissions and retention—directly impact enrollment.”  Bluefield State had experienced an enrollment drop of 16.5% between 2015 and 2019.  In early 2020, the College implemented changes within its Enrollment Management organization, hiring a new Director of Admissions, reformulating the Student Success Committee, and adding the Office of Student Affairs to Lewis’ responsibilities.

                “We developed a Strategic Enrollment Management Plan that built upon Bluefield State’s advertising budget and social media presence, and we developed articulation agreements with more than 70 high schools, technical education centers, and community colleges,” he explained.  Additionally, the College automated enrollment processes (admissions, registration, financial aid, and business office practices).  “We also developed a Case Management model, where each new prospective student was introduced to an admissions counselor, who acted as their mentor, encouraging and assisting the ‘recruit’ throughout the recruitment funnel,” Lewis added.

                “Bluefield State also developed forward-facing academic programs and stackable that have proven very attractive to students,” he continued.  The College expanded the number of online and hybrid courses, added new short-term and intersession options, and grew the number of dual credit/dual enrolled courses at high schools to create specific pathways to Bluefield State.  “The addition of 12 athletic programs, including football, and the opening of a student residence hall (the Medical Education Center) also contributed to BSC’s enrollment growth momentum.”

                Retention strategies involved developing a team of College employees to contact all current students who did not re-register for the following semester, as well as students who had stopped out.  “We delivered additional new student orientation programs and mandated that new students participate in orientation prior to registering for classes.  At the start of fall semester 2021 classes, we held the College’s first matriculation ceremony, formally welcoming each new student into the Bluefield State family,” the BSC Provost stated. 

“Each new student signed a Student Success Contract, pledging to attend class, arrive at class on time, and read all assigned content before each class.  Tutoring and counseling were offered for each student demonstrating a need for assistance, and all at-risk students were placed into individualized student success plans.”

Replacing the traditional “undeclared” category for early undergraduate students who have not declared a major area of study, the College developed “meta-majors” that group individual majors under a larger academic umbrella, providing students with a clear pathway to graduation and connections between their studies and different career tracks. Additionally, students are placed into block schedules for their first year, with set schedules depending on their meta-major, creating predictable scheduling, facilitating student cohorts, and developing easier class scheduling for advisors.

Lewis noted, “we are deeply committed to facilitating a culture of student enrollment, retention, success, and completion.”

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