By Anna Meurer
As you might have noticed, Georgetown is shrinking. In 2008, official undergraduate enrollment was 1,302. This year, enrollment is 1,116. Especially in a primarily tuition-dependent college, the gap is evident – residence halls are empty enough to take offline, organization memberships are down, several departments are missing familiar faculty…you get it. It’s not good.
Now, I don’t pretend to know the intricacies of “what went wrong” and I, unlike several politicians, don’t pretend to have a miraculous solution. However, I think there are a few things GC could do to help correct the problem before it actually becomes a crisis (as if it wasn’t enough of one already).
This is by far the most important, I think. To be completely frank, no logical person is going to risk paying nearly $40K a year to attend a school that might become the Titanic halfway through their degree. Not only is transferring a tricky and disruptive process, but having a failed school on your record is detrimental to your degree, even if you are not at fault. Your credibility is dependent to some extent on your school’s credibility, and if the latter’s goes up in flames, so does yours. To draw in students, Georgetown needs to convince people that this is a place they’d want to be – and no one wants to be in the middle of a battlefield. If we want students, we need a stable, consistent administration.
2.Emphasizing Unique Strengths:
The second key aspect to drawing in prospective students is emphasizing not just strengths, but unique strengths.
Giving just the general liberal arts spiel – small classes, professor interaction, friendly community, blah blah blah – Georgetown doesn’t really stand out; literally EVERY small school emphasizes the same thing. What we need to do is focus very specifically on our unique strengths – the programs of distinction (Oxford, Christian Leaders, Global Scholars, Equine Scholars) our athletic prowess and our customized degree programs.
Then, we need to market very specifically for those programs. It’s not always a game of mass advertising; more often, it’s a game of smart advertising. Georgetown doesn’t have the reach or resources to bombard the masses and hope for a few sticks – no wet spaghetti approaches here. A more specific approach not only makes effective use of resources but, more often than not, people listen when specifically targeted, especially if it fits their interests.
3.Focus on Retention:
The best advertisers for any higher education institution are the people within that institution. People who are happy tend to share.
People who are dissatisfied don’t promote their circumstances (at least, not positively), and even people who are only moderately satisfied have a tendency to make side comments that undermine the initial presentation of a school. To that extent, if Georgetown wants to bring in more students and keep the ones they have, they need to make it a priority to keep those currently on campus happy. That means listening and interacting and making the college a community, not a dictatorship.
It is worth noting that enrollment drops are not particularly uncommon; it happens to all schools, and sometimes it’s just a sign of the times. However, Georgetown has a lot to offer, and in light of a few years of missed opportunities, it would be to its benefit to be an active player and devote itself to stopping the problem before the downward slide turns into an avalanche.