Advisory Council Reveals Causes of Admissions Shortage, Suggests Fixes

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This past May, it was revealed that the number of incoming first-year students at St. Mary’s fell 150 students below the target goal of the Office of Admissions. In the aftermath of such a dramatic shortfall, an Admissions Advisory Council was established by former President Joe Urgo and former Dean of Admissions Pat Goldsmith.

Headed by Associate Professor of English Beth Charlebois and Anthropology Department Chair Bill Roberts, the Council consisted of faculty, staff, students and alumni whose goal was twofold: to identify the primary factors that contributed to the enrollment crisis, and to produce ideas, strategies, and tactics to improve recruitment in the future.

On August 27, the Council released the final report of their findings on the student Portal (under the tab ‘Groups and Events’). Some of the causes that were determined included the swift reallocation of financial aid from merit-based to need-based scholarships, the Admissions Office’s switch to the Common Application without a supplemental question specific to St. Mary’s, a decline in admissions visits to Maryland high schools, low staff morale due to departures of admissions staff, and outdated publications, website, and social media applications.

In order to combat these issues, the Council suggested that the College reinstate their “need-blind” admissions policy, include a supplemental essay question for St. Mary’s in the Common Application (which has already been implemented), eliminate the requirement of filling out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) for merit scholarships, revising the college websites, and increasing the presence of SMCM admissions counselors in Maryland high schools.

In order to oversee the progress of such changes being made to the admissions process, the Council suggested that it remain a permanent body that will continue to represent the interests of all stakeholders in the College, including faculty, alumni, staff, and current students.

In conjunction with the release of these findings, a new Vice President of Enrollment Management and Dean of Admissions was hired to implement new strategies for the coming year. Gary Sherman, who has over 30 years of enrollment management experience, will begin his position on October 7 after taking over from Joel Wincowski, who held these positions for an interim period after the departure of Patricia Goldsmith.

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