Oriana Gilmore

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — Winthrop University has seen a record number of applications for the fall 2019 semester, after an increase in recruitment initiatives.

As of Jan. 1, a total of 5,341 students have applied to the school, which exceeds the record number of 5,328 prospective students who applied in fall 2006.

President Dan Mahony said the university’s “welcoming environment” has enabled students and their families to feel at home on campus.

“The large increase in interest in Winthrop among prospective freshmen demonstrates that this strong student-centered focus at the university is resonating with these students and their families,” said Mahony.

The Division of Access and Enrollment Management, Winthrop’s recruiting department, increased their travel efforts across the state to recruit students and implemented more digital communication to reach prospective students across multiple platforms.

Eduardo Prieto, vice president of access and enrollment, said the largest increase of applicants came from the school’s target areas in South Carolina, including York, Spartanburg, Greenville, Lexington, Richland, Charleston and Berkeley counties.

Prieto said the university also saw a modest increase in out-of-state applicants, including those from North Carolina.

School officials said Winthrop plans to increase its engagement and communication with prospective students through digital media (photo: Oriana Gilmore).

An increase in enrollment would help the university with its current budget deficit, as Winthrop lost about $5 million in revenue during the 2018-2019 academic year due to low enrollment.

Justin Oates, the vice president of finance and business, said the university could “break even,” with an enrollment increase of just 200 students in the fall.

“Anything over 200 students would be additional funds that we could invest in the students and the university,” Oates said. “With additional funds, you have to remember, that the budgeting process has been very incremental, which means people get the same budget every year.”

Oates said he is planning to implement an allocation system in the next budget, which would allow departments to send requests for resources. Allocations of funds would then be based on those requests and the strategic plan.

“We hope that we allocate resources, in the future, closer to the strategic plan,” Oates said.

However, school officials said an increase in applications will mean little if those prospective students don’t ultimately enroll at Winthrop.

Thus, the university is taking steps to get applicants to commit, Prieto said, by placing an emphasis on the value, overall experience, quality of education and affordability of Winthrop.

He said the school plans to increase its engagement and communication with prospective students through digital media.

Karen Jones — vice provost of administration, accreditation and accountability — said the university plans to improve it efforts to meet student needs in order to improve retention rates.

“It’s not just about the numbers,” Jones said. “We look at other data associated with the students that try to help us look at where we might need to direct resources or tweak things with continuous improvement and feedback.”

There are also support systems intended to help new students become acclimated with Winthrop, such as the Office of the First Year Experience (or FYE) for freshmen and the recently added ACAD 300 course, in University College, for transfer students.

Jones said the purpose of these resources is to help point students in the right direction. She also said it’s important for students to take advantage of the resources available on campus, as they work towards graduation.

“If a student is admitted to Winthrop, they wouldn’t have been admitted if we didn’t think they could be successful,” said Jones.

Winthrop’s admissions cycle is ongoing and the university will continue receiving and reviewing applications until the start of the fall semester.

Roughly, 70 percent of students who apply to Winthrop are ultimately accepted, according to Mahony.