‘Utah colleges look to rural Utahns and adult learners to keep enrollment trends up’

Linking to a story from KUER90.1 in Salt Lake City

This local press article from Jon Reed of KUER90.1 on the University of Utah’s recruiting efforts holds some pretty interesting detail. The University of Utah in Salt Lake City runs one of the more successful marketing efforts in higher ed. Prior to COVID, it had simultaneously tightened admissions standards (81% of applicants admitted in 2015 falling to 62% in 2019), received more applications and increased its entering classes all the while raising out-of-state prices. Yields have been trending down but moderately so. The latest admissions rate for last autumn’s class was not released, but the school’s press release glows with good news.

Utah succeeded in making a step change in application interest in the 2017 cycle, with a bit over 14k applications received in the 2016 cycle rising to about 22k in 2017, a level which has since been maintained. This success appears to have been caused by multiple initiatives, as this detailed annual report on the highly successful ’17 cycle reveals. The report contains loads of detail, including on the department’s staffing up towards the end of the document. It also provides a data breakdown of the students who visited campus, informing us that 94% of visiting students had been admitted (v 66% of all applicants). The importance of demonstrated interest to the Utah enrollment staff is justified by the fact that the yield on these students is close to double the general applicant pool’s. Whatever you can say about the report, the word “organized” surely applies.

Per staffing up, the KUER item includes information on further marketing expansions. The emphasis is on in-person sales and relationship building:

“The U recently hired its first in-state regional admissions counselor, whose job is to reach out to students in Washington and Iron counties, as well as rural and remote schools throughout southern Utah. John Marfield [admissions director at the University of Utah] said the goal is to have someone in the area year-round who can host events, meet with students and try to get them to consider going to the U.”

“[Marfield] said the position is part of a larger outreach strategy for the school, which began with placing two counselors in California about two years ago. The university hired another in Texas last November… [The university] has seen about a 38% increase in applications from California alone, which he attributes at least in part to the counselors.”

Utah has the highest birth rate of any state in the nation, putting the University in an advantageous position. In fact, the latest WICHE projections of state high school classes forecast that Utah’s 2033 graduating high school classes will be larger than the ’21 class. Nevertheless, the hiring of sales staff in the enormous California and Texas markets points to how energetic higher ed marketing departments are focussing on out-of-state students even when they can count on a favorable home state demographics.


The University of Utah campus in Salt Lake City