As of this 2022-2023 academic year, there are 1,559 undergraduate students. This is a large decrease from over 2,100 students enrolled just five years ago.
From an admissions standpoint, this current year there are roughly 5,500 applicants for the incoming first-year classes, the largest number of applications in HWS history. Roughly 1,200 are international student applicants (about 21% of first-year applicants). In conversation with interim Vice President Kathy Regan ’82, the office has been focused on different initiatives to engage with admitted and prospective students. Regan mentions there is currently a national search for a VP of Admissions and Financial Aid and at the moment as an interim, she is focused on trying to shore up the operations and staffing within the division. Regan mentioned, “we are down in staffing this academic year,” putting strain on everyone. In rolling out admission decisions sooner, it has allowed admitted students to have a window to explore and interact with the school through admitted student days, faculty conversations, a series of weekly zoom sessions, and regional events. There is a particular push to encourage campus visits as the data shows that those who interact with the school in person often have a higher yield in enrolling. We are seeing many more visitors to campus which is a great sign that we are getting back to pre-Covid times.
The Herald spoke with Professor of Economics Tom Drennen to hear a faculty member’s perspective about the possible reasons for the declining enrollment. Professor Drennen suggests, “what we have seen in the past few years is that more and more students are interested in studying business,” and “prospective (students) were just not seeing that as an option here, even though we have an economics program and entrepreneurship minor. But now, our new Bachelor of Science in Management and Entrepreneurship should appeal to more of these students. Management emphasizes the soft skills of doing business- leadership, critical thinking, and problem-solving that HWS fosters. Professor Drennen adds, “we were losing students to our peers, who have business programs.” He claims that this new major ,“will get more students in the door.” Drennen says that, “we hope students find their passion, whether in the new major or any of our other amazing options.” Professor Drennen notes that this is just one part of a broader “strategy of identifying academic programs this generation of students wants, such as the new Data Analytics minor and Aquatic Studies.” Overall, Drennen is optimistic about our future, and mentions that “during the Covid years, students weren’t able to visit campus and it’s hard for a student to see themselves (here).” Now, HWS is fully back to business and having prospective students see what HWS has to offer.
With this decline, The Herald spoke to the VP of Finance (Lead Financial Officer), Mr. Mark Edwards, on the impact on the operating budget and the institution’s financial health. The operational budget is not much affected, and the loss in revenue from student tuition is supplemented by the institution’s endowment, donations, and government aid.
As HWS navigates these challenging times in attracting students, it often requires a conversation on how HWS can be innovative in academic offerings, social life and engagement on campus.