President Bob Davies said Thursday he will move undergraduate admissions and Murray State’s marketing and communications arm directly under the President’s office, underscoring his goal to improve student recruitment for the University.
Fred Dietz, currently the Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management, will head the combined first-year freshmen and transfer admissions office, which will move under the President’s office effective July 1, 2015.
The renamed “Branding Marketing and Communications” division will begin reporting to the President’s office Jan. 1. Davies also will create an executive director position for which he will launch a national search and shift around money in the office in order to cover the salary.
Davies said his background in the marketing field gives insight into the way the office should run and what its goals should be. Davies holds a masters degree in finance and marketing.
He announced his plans at the Board of Regents meeting. The regents endorsed the moves but because of a procedural change earlier this year, the Board no longer has to formally approve personnel actions other than ones involving vice presidents and academic deans.
The regorganization marks Davies’ first major change to the University’s structure since he became President July 14. After being hired in March, Davies said he would wait six months before making any major decisions for the University.
The changes also tie into the University’s approach to recruiting students, which was another major topic of Thursday morning’s portion of the regents’ meeting. Murray State hit a record total enrollment of 11,207 this semester, buoyed largely by an increase in transfers. However, the number of full-time first-year freshmen slid for the second year in a row 1,490, which also marked a four-year low.
The board also received the findings of a study of Murray State’s recruitment and marketing effort, which demonstrated the University’s inability to show academic strength to potential students, yet still draw attention from low tuition costs.
The study, conducted by Maguire Associations, showed Murray State has the cheapest tuition costs of any of its peer universities, and the university’s biggest competitor is community colleges.
While tuition is low, the study said it is also intricate. Scholarships and discounted rates given to out-of-state students, particularly in the tri-state area, make Murray State tuition complex and difficult to understand for potential students.
This fuzzy perception of what Murray State offers academically particularly affected recruitment outside the University’s immediate coverage area of 18 western Kentucky counties.
After the presentation, Constantine Curris, regent and former Murray State president, said he interpreted the findings to mean the “marketplace is telling us they don’t think we have high quality academics.”
Whether that means other universities have caught up with Murray State academically or that Murray State’s message isn’t reaching prospective students, something has to change, he said.
“In the five years I’ve been on the Board, I do not recall a single proposal being brought by the administration to this Board to improve academic quality,” Curris said.
Curris then turned to Davies and suggested that the results of the strategic planning process Davies has started should be to narrow Murray State’s core goals down to two or three priorities.
“This has to be what we’re going to focus on,” Curris said. “And I would hope that addressing the academic quality, particularly at the undergraduate level … would be one of them.”
Story by Amanda Grau, News Editor