Freshman enrollment numbers drop, positivity remains

President Campo talks sunsetted majors, new strategic plan for future of AU


Over the course of a few months, Ashland University has undergone cuts, layoffs and furloughs while adjusting to the new rules and regulations regarding COVID-19.

These cuts were partly brought on by the sunsetting of certain majors and minors, one of those being theatre.

President Dr. Campo said there were seven or eight students majoring in theatre. 

“It wasn’t just that [the number of majors], an upgrade would probably be a 20-million dollar facility to get that right and to re-do CFA. Not to say that that might not happen in five or ten years or sometime in the future, said Campo.

Focus was emphasized on the majors that were bringing in students, those that were sunsetted showed some of the lowest enrollment numbers.

“While we’ve reduced some of the majors within undergrad, we don’t see that as an overall reduction in number [enrollment] at the university,” said Campo.

Amid these changes, the school did not stop functioning. 

During the All-Institutional meeting on Aug. 25, the new enrollment numbers were released. While these numbers remain fluid due to students that may opt out before the census is taken later this month, there is a decrease in enrollment of about 96 students.

There are currently 446 new freshman students, according to Director of Admissions Wray Blair. This number follows last year’s total of 542 new freshman students.

The amount of transfer students is almost a match from last year. There are 117 transfers, compared to last year’s total of 112, which can be found on the Fall Census Enrollment Reports released by the Office of Institutional Effectiveness.

When asked about the predictions of continuous decrease in the freshman student enrollment, Campo said, “I think we will stabilize, not decrease. We’ve been talking about a student body of around 2,000 to 2,500 — we believe that 500 freshmen is about right for us.”

The school hopes to stabilize and reach a steady population for the undergraduate program in coming years. 

Reaching enrollment status is not solely handled from within majors, the admissions team used quarantine to introduce the university through  online tours and Zoom events for prospective students.

“We pivoted very quickly to an online format, which was zoom meetings,” Blair said. “We had transfer days and group meetings, but students could also do individual meetings where they took a tour online.”

While the admissions team lost events in the spring, which attracted the largest crowd of interested students, they added an extra tour day to open more times up to visitors.

“We started giving tours on July 6. We worked closely with our facilities people and developed a plan of three families [on campus] a day,” Blair said.They had to social distance, wear masks and schedule a set time.”

Tour dates are now Monday, Wednesday and Thursday and Admissions plan to continue that through the year, said Blair.

New students and returning students are met with the same expectations this year – get through the school year healthy and finish your time here without necessary delays.

“Our goal is to get everybody through [the year] healthy and for students to meet their academic goals,” said Campo.

Alongside the plans of more tours to bring in students, there are plans of a new strategic plan for 2021. Campo revealed that it is now in the finalizing stage.

“When we think about Ashland five years from now we want every student to feel that accent on the individual, so that’s one of the things we’re really working hard on- it’s something called the Ashland Promise. We’re hoping to run that out in the next few weeks.” 

The Ashland Promise is a new marketing campaign, but also linked to AU’s core values, according to Campo.

“No matter which students you are, there will be an individual directed just for you,” Campo said. “We think it’s one of the things that has separated us from other schools.”

One source of success for AU has been the Correctional Education program and the Online Graduate program, which Campo is working into the strategic plan. 

Campo referred to the Correctional Education program as an “area of growth” during the All-Institutional Meeting.

There were 38 new hires for this school year, many are Arizona site directors who work with the Outreach Program. More facilities were mentioned to be added to the Outreach Program during the meeting.

Ashland is a really diverse place now, said Campo.

“We have a great undergraduate school, which as you know, we’ve contracted a bit – focusing on the ones we still have in place,” Campo said. 

Ashland classes will now reach 11 states with the online and correctional program outreach.

“When you think about the fact that we will be in graduate programs reaching students from all over the country, that we have the undergraduate population here, but also undergraduate students doing degree completion from all over the country – it really shows the Ashland reach in a broader way,” said Campo.