Staff Editorial: Early vision by enrollment manager is promising

What do Brian Williams, Alec Baldwin and L. Ron Hubbard have in common? They’re all GW dropouts.

Some of GW’s most famous would-be alumni never completed their four years. But as the University looks to improve the quality of its undergraduate education, administrators know they need to do more to keep students on campus after they’re admitted.

The Hatchet reported last week that top administrators in charge of admissions, financial aid and diversity are putting a microscope on their own practices, studying how students succeed – or fail – once they get to campus.

After former Dean of Admissions Kathy Napper left last December following a scandal that rocked the admissions office, the University didn’t just replace her with another admissions director. Instead, administrators hired Laurie Koehler as the new senior associate provost for enrollment management, who came to GW this summer.

She’s responsible for admissions and financial aid, making her the first GW administrator to have direct oversight of both areas. That means she’s responsible for making a complex equation work: The University needs to attract enough high-caliber students with generous financial offers, but still admit enough full-paying students to pad GW’s bottom line.

It’s heartening to see GW’s new enrollment manager putting her focus not just on winning the arms race of first-year college applications, but on helping students flourish once they get here.

“We can’t look at [enrollment] in these little boxes anymore, of undergraduate admissions and financial aid and registrar,” Koehler told The Hatchet. “We need to think about it more holistically.”

She’s right. Students often feel trapped when different parts of the University work out of sync, throwing up academic, financial and administrative barriers.

At a time when almost one-third of college students nationwide transfer, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, understanding what students get out of a GW education – and where it goes wrong – is essential. GW’s undergraduate retention rate hovers about 90 percent, but administrators want improvement.

And fortunately, the University’s new retention efforts expand beyond the admissions office. The University hired a team of experts to study retention rates specifically among GW’s minority populations, said the vice provost for diversity and inclusion, Terri Harris Reed, last week.

It’s reassuring that GW’s new hire will place more emphasis on monitoring students’ progress throughout their entire college experience instead of forgetting about them once they commit to GW as a senior in high school.

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