Who are today’s Bulldogs, and how is Redlands responding to shifting demographics in higher education?
by Judy Hill
When you dig into the data produced by the numerous educational institutes and foundations whose job it is to report such things, it can get pretty wonky. The bottom line, though, is that the landscape of college enrollment is changing.
Young people contemplating college these days, and in the near future, are less likely to be white or male. They are more likely to be Hispanic and the first person in their family to continue their education past high school. They are also more likely to need help paying for college.
Today’s student body is already predominantly female (around 57 percent), and in the future it is also likely to be older, with more students attending college past the age of 25 and while holding down a job or raising children.
Clearly the implications for college enrollment are profound, both at large public schools and smaller liberal arts colleges like the University of Redlands.
Who better to explain the current college enrollment landscape, and our place within it, than the man at the epicenter of all things enrollment, Kevin Dyerly. A Yucaipa native, Dyerly graduated from the University of Redlands in 2000 with a major in business administration. After working in the Admissions Office here for five years, he left to take a position at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., only to return to Redlands seven years later to take on the role of vice president of enrollment.
We sat down with him to talk about national trends, regional implications and how Redlands stays nimble, responsive and true to its essential Bulldog character.
A National Center for Education Statistics report produced in 2014 predicted that:
- College enrollment will slow dramatically over the next decade.
- There will be a 42 percent increase in Hispanic students by 2021.
- There will only be a 4 percent increase in Caucasian students.
- College students will increasingly come from traditionally underserved and lower-income communities and families who are more likely to live in poverty, be first-generation college students and have a greater likelihood of dropping out before graduating.
- The rise in enrollment of students 25 and older is projected to be nearly double that of younger students through 2020.
- By 2020, 65 percent of jobs will require workers with some college education.
University of Redlands Class of 2019
- Entering Freshmen: 527
- Entering transfer students: 106
- Female: 56%
- Male: 44%
- Asian: 7.4%
- Black: 3.6%
- Caucasian: 46.9%
- Hispanic or Latino: 26.2%
- Native American/Native Hawaiian: 1.1%
- Two or more races: 7.4%
- Total minority students: 46%
- International Students: 2.0%
- Out-of-state first year students: 32.1%
- Cal Grant recipients: 24%
- Pell Grant recipients: 29%
- Any financial assistance: 98%
- First generation: 36%
- Redlands legacy connection: 13%
- Recruited Athletes: 23.8%
- High school GPA: 3.62
- SAT combined: 1,110
- ACT composite: 25
- States represented: 35
Q&A Vice President of Enrollment Kevin Dyerly
How did you come to be a Bulldog?
In the spring of my senior year of high school I stayed overnight on campus with a student here who was also from Yucaipa, Matt Carpenter. I remember talking about what it would be like as a local kid attending the U of R. The proximity of Redlands was a deterrent for me until Matt assured me you could make the most of this place even if you were 10 miles from home.
Not only did you graduate from Redlands, you stayed on as an admissions counselor.
The opportunity to do admissions work here sounded appealing as a first job. I figured I could do it for two years. Two became five and at that point I had gotten an MBA from Redlands and it seemed to me the most logical step was to leave and get some perspective. I was fortunate enough to be looking when Whitman was searching for an associate director. As fate would have it the woman who hired me ended up leaving, so within 11 months I was director of admissions there. There were some similarities to Redlands community-wise but enough differences to make the experience a nice contrast.
So why did you come back?
My wife, Jennie ’01 ’04, and I loved the Pacific Northwest and didn’t have any real intention of coming back, but in 2012 the opportunity to return to Redlands at a time of transition to a new president and in a role that could help shape and influence policy and direction for enrollment across the entire institution seemed really attractive. Ralph [Pres. Kuncl]and I started the same week.
What keeps you up at night as VP of Enrollment? Or should I say what excites you most?
One of the major differences between Whitman and Redlands is the level of tuition dependency. At Whitman, a third of the operating budget comes from endowment. Here it’s a couple percent. Our revenue draws 95 percent from tuition and so there’s not a day goes by that I don’t think about how we are crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s to ensure we have an adequate and right mix of students expressing interest in Redlands, applying and ultimately choosing to call this place home.
What excites me is how we can even better position the institution for success, enhancing our awareness and reputation, staying committed to the students in our own backyard while attracting a more diverse group of students nationally and internationally.
In essence, we’re trying to recruit and attract the most talented class that we can afford. There’s the academic characteristics we’re looking for, and there’s the diversity of academic interest, extracurriculars, geography and gender that we want. And then there’s the bottom line of trying to provide access and make it affordable while still achieving real revenue to operate the institution.
What are some of the demographic changes we’re seeing in the enrollment landscape?
The first decade of this century saw a steady increase in the number of high school graduates from year to year. From 2009 to 2014 it was a little bit more modest. The projected number is even more modest for the next five to 10 years.
In that timeframe, the biggest fundamental shift is that there will be a little over 10 percent decrease in projected white/Caucasian high school graduates and a 10 percent increase in Hispanic/Latino students. It’s a national trend, which is mirrored in California and even accentuated a bit. When you look at four-year college matriculation rates immediately from high school, there’s historically a significant difference between Caucasian and Hispanic students.
There’s also a substantial drop-off in the projected number of U.S. students who will graduate from private and parochial high schools, and that’s significant because students who attend private high schools have a higher propensity to look at private universities.
So absent a fundamental shift, there are going to be fewer high school grads going directly to four-year colleges or universities.
The other shift I’ve seen relates to our public universities. When I came back four years ago, the rhetoric in the state was about how difficult it was to get into a UC school because they had constrained capacity in the thick of the recession. It was perceived to be more difficult for students to transfer to a UC from community colleges and we saw an increase in transfers to Redlands. Then Proposition 30 passed in 2014 infusing state dollars into public higher education and helping them build more student capacity, thus widening the pathway for community college students to transfer to the UCs.
Couple that with the fact that private institutions nationally and four-year public schools in our own backyard are recruiting in ways they weren’t 10 years ago. There are over 130 colleges and universities that have full-time regional staff members working in California for their institutions out of state. It was a fourth of that number 10 to 15 years ago.
We’re fortunate to be in California where the demographics in terms of diminishing numbers of graduating high school students is not quite as severe, but there’s a lot of competition for those students. I would love to see us achieve slightly greater geographic diversity, but we’re working against the grain right now, when institutions in the Midwest and Northeast with declining high school student demographics are actively trying to recruit more Californians to fill their classes.
Other changes in the last 15 years?
There are more women than men now, which is a national trend. And increasingly we see more first generation college-bound students. We also see more students from overseas. And there are more students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds as is evidenced by our Pell and Cal Grant recipient percentages.
How have these changes affected your enrollment strategy?
We’ve devoted time and energy to expanding the number of students from international backgrounds who might consider Redlands. We also continue to try and raise the awareness of Redlands outside of California, and we are making efforts to deepen our relationships with local community colleges where we see a real opportunity to enroll more transfer students.
That’s on top of a core recruitment plan that continues to cultivate pipelines of potential Bulldogs from California and other markets throughout the country that have proven to be successful and productive for decades, such as the Pacific Northwest, Hawaii, Colorado and New England.
It’s one thing to have students enroll, but you also want them to graduate. Is that a concern?
We have retained and graduated our Cal Grant students, who are by definition strong students from low socioeconomic backgrounds, at higher rates than at other similar institutions. That’s through a combination of financial aid support coupled with real commitment and support from student services and faculty mentoring.
How has the “typical” Redlands student changed, or not? And how has their experience here changed?
Physically of course the campus has changed, with additions like the Naslund Study Lounge, the Stauffer science complex, the Thompson Aquatic Center, the Hunsaker University Center and the Ted Runner Stadium, but how students describe the place hasn’t changed dramatically in the last 15 to 20 years.
On their applications, students often describe the sense of community here when they visit, the friendliness and welcoming spirit they experience that was in contrast to other places. There’s something about that warmth and the personal nature of the place that is very attractive to our students.
Our students continue to bring a wide range of academic and intellectual experiences from high school, from students who’ve been at or near the top of their class in high school to students who’ve worked hard to earn a solid B average. They tend to be service oriented, and they are multifaceted, too. You’ve got athletes who are talented musicians, thespians who are doing Science Summer Research.
Those are some innate characteristics of many of our students that haven’t changed from one generation to the next. And I believe the institution itself attracts those kinds of students.
This is not a pretentious community. People care about who you are and not where you come from, which is a contrast to some of the other schools our students consider. Part of that has to do with our location, being outside of L.A. or San Diego or San Francisco. That’s part of what makes the ethos here a little different.
Once students are here we give them latitude to create, to fail and succeed. With 2,600 students, we’re residentially big enough to have ample opportunities for students, but small enough to still care and mentor and develop them.