Ave Maria University is shaking up its admissions department.
New student enrollment for this fall is on pace with last year’s numbers, though enrollment is still shy of what officials at the school had hoped for. That was not necessarily the reason for undertaking a reorganization of its admissions department, said Paul Roney, chief financial officer of the university.
The changes, Roney said, started in mid-June when Consulting Vice President for Enrollment Management Karla Stein resigned voluntarily. Hers was the first of five losses in the department of eight full-time employees, either through resignations or layoffs.
Roney would not name Stein specifically, but referred to the person holding the position occupied by Stein, according to the university’s website. He said her reasons for stepping down were personal; she worked out of state as a consultant for the university for about 11⁄2 years, and planned on moving to Collier County eventually.
“In the month of June, for personal reasons, of their own accord, they made the decision that they couldn’t locate here,” Roney said, referring to the vice president for enrollment. “And, as a result, they resigned from the position of vice president for enrollment.”
Following Stein’s resignation, the university appointed an interim vice president for enrollment, who subsequently made the decision to change the structure of the admissions department. Until earlier this month, Ave Maria had regional admissions directors stationed in the Northeast and Midwest. Both people were laid off, with the intention of hiring new admissions counselors to fill similar positions, but in the Ave Maria home office in Collier County.
A third employee, the university’s director of enrollment for roughly the last 18 months, was laid off. That employee, who was not named by Roney and is no longer listed on the Ave Maria staff website, did work in the central Ave Maria office, Roney confirmed.
Roney said the decisions of who to lay off were made based on “who was being effective and who wasn’t.”
Another admissions employee resigned to pursue a higher degree, Roney said. The admissions department is composed of just eight full-time employees, with an additional cadre of students who work part-time calling prospective students.
Roney speculated that the new admissions counselors hired by the university would likely be recent graduates, “because our graduates know the school and we feel based on our experience they can most effectively tell the story to prospective students.”
Ave Maria University enrolled 296 new students last fall, a record year, and Roney said the university is on pace to match that this fall. With a total of about 800 students enrolled in the last academic year, Roney said administrators expect overall university enrollment to increase by 10 to 15 percent.
“Even having said that, due to the current economy, the majority of private colleges and universities across the country are being impacted,” Roney said. “Private institutions are being impacted, as are public institutions, and we’re not an exception to being impacted by the economy. ... Kids a few years ago considering a private university are saying, ‘I need to consider a less costly option like a state university or a community college.”
Three years ago, the university was battling rumors of defections from its admissions department because of low recruiting numbers. Three admissions staff members resigned in April 2007, with the university citing personal reasons for all three leaving, also declining to name the staff members.
Admissions Director Rich Dittus was also transferred in the 2007 shuffle, though university officials declined to cite a reason for the transfer.
At the time, Ave Maria had roughly 320 undergraduate students enrolled, well short of the 500 to 600 students that administrators hoped to have by then, according to news reports from the time.
The university in recent weeks has received what is hoped to be a boon for future enrollment: it received full accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the accrediting body for public and private universities in the southeastern United States.
“Receiving regional accreditation is a significant, significant step for the university,” Roney said. “It will help us some this fall, but it will have a much bigger impact for the 2011-12 year and beyond. Now that we have received regional accreditation, we can look at adding different majors.”
Connect with education reporter Leslie Williams Hale at naplesnews.com/staff/leslie_hale