The Inside Scoop at Dalton State

First of all, the rumors that students are dropping out of college because they can’t find parking at Dalton State are not true. Parking woes are a universal truth on college campuses, and frankly we have it much better than most, but the fact remains that at peak times parking is tight. We have an excellent solution: shuttle buses that run continuously between campus and the Dalton Convention Center parking lot. Shuttle riders rarely wait more than five minutes to catch a ride; I sometimes park up the hill and take the shuttle when an early meeting off campus keeps me from finding a good parking space. Having dispelled that myth, I am ready to move on to meatier topics.

I am often asked this time of year how our enrollment looks. People want to know that we are growing and enrollment numbers are viewed as the critical metric. But enrollment numbers are only one measure of growth, and right now we are focused on a more fundamental type of growth, one that is more significant and sustainable over time, and that is growth in our number of graduates.

I recently reviewed our enrollment and graduation numbers over the past decade and calculated that between 2007 and 2017 our enrollment grew by 14 percent. This is a modest but solid performance given the national issue of declining numbers of high school graduates being produced. What excites me more, however, is that over that same time period our number of graduates increased by 56 percent. This surge in graduates is the more significant measure of growth and health of an institution, and this is the kind of growth we are focused on. We know that the return on investment for recruiting students who will graduate is a more cost effective approach than simply recruiting more students every year.

Similarly, we operate strategically with our marketing and student recruitment efforts. If money were no object, we could spend a great deal on advertising and hiring a slew of additional admissions recruiters to cover the globe. But we know that more money spent in these efforts does not always correlate with an increase in students enrolling and especially does not correlate with increased graduation rates.

Although we would always appreciate more money, our tight budgets force us to be more efficient. Limited resources mean that we must focus on the activities that produce the greatest return on investment. We focus our efforts on identifying those students most likely to thrive at Dalton State and persist to graduation. We send admission recruiters to the high schools in areas that offer the greatest opportunities to recruit students likely to succeed at Dalton State. Likewise, we choose advertising media that reach prospective students where they are – on digital media.

This means we make extensive use of social media with targeted ads that identify those 16-20 year olds most likely to be interested in Dalton State. Have you noticed when you are on Facebook that you see ads for items you recently googled online or merchants similar to the businesses you visited? It is not a coincidence. Our prospective students are seeing Dalton State ads when they search Google and access their Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube accounts. And it is paying off because 79.5 percent of the students admitted to Dalton State actually enroll. That admission yield is more typical of a highly selective college or university.

So if you have not seen as many Dalton State billboards or radio and television commercials, you will now understand why. Our target demographic is watching Netflix and Hulu instead of commercial television, listening to music on Spotify and receiving their information via their phones. Even our students’ parents have responded positively to their own Dalton State Parent Facebook page where we share information with parents and the parents can share information with each other.

We aren’t going completely dark to the baby boomers, though. The parents and grandparents of our students can follow our progress and activities through our website, Facebook, newspaper articles in this newspaper and even a monthly summary of Dalton State news distributed via email. Sign up for the Roadrunner Roundup at [email protected] if you want to receive these emails. You will see press releases, blogs, videos and this monthly column with every edition of the Roadrunner Roundup.

Stay tuned for more exciting news from Dalton State. We are Running Boldly!

Dr. Venable is president of Dalton State College.