By Courtney Day
After fewer first-year students enrolled in fall 2009 than Miami University anticipated, the university made improvements to its admission and financial aid process to ensure that more students would choose Miami in 2010.
Perhaps the most significant change was the introduction of a merit-based guarantee scholarship.
Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs John Skillings said the guaranteed merit scholarship was part of a “more aggressive scholarship program” than the university has had in previous years.
“We had a smaller freshman class size than we hoped for last year,” Chuck Knepfle, assistant provost and director of student financial assistance, said. “I think we determined that if we awarded more financial aid that we might be able to improve the numbers.”
The new scholarship program involves both higher levels of merit-based aid offered to incoming students and an earlier scholarship notification time.
Prospective students can use a table to figure out the amount of aid they can expect based on their high school GPA and standardized test scores.
The slightly higher level of aid and the improved communication led more students to choose Miami, Knefle said. He said the university is ahead of its target for fall enrollment for first-years.
Knefle said he thinks that some students see the cost of full tuition and think they cannot afford to come to Miami. He said applicants will be attracted to the university when they see the financial aid award they will receive.
According to Skillings, the money for the more aggressive scholarship program comes from a combination of endowed funds from donors, state funding and tuition.
“What really is important to us is to graduate successful students,” Skillings said. “To have high quality graduates we need high quality students coming in … what we’re all about is student success.”
He said the university has focused on branding Miami as a high quality university with a commitment to a successful student experience.
“We had a high quality class last year,” Skillings said. “We would have liked to have a larger class.”
Skillings said the university is pleased with the quality and diversity of the incoming class this year. The class of 2014 is 12.8 percent domestic multi-cultural and about one third of the class is made up of out-of-state students, Skillings said.
Although the focus of the new guaranteed scholarship program is merit-based aid, “We still continue to give need based aid,” Skillings said. “We want to be sensitive to families and their needs.”
In addition to increased scholarships, Skillings said improvements have been implemented in recruiting, campus visits for prospective and accepted students and first-year and transfer orientations.
He said a lot more people on campus including students, faculty and staff have come together to bring new students to Miami.
Knefle said the 60 members of the admission and financial aid staff has worked hard this year to improve communication and all of their services, and that work has paid off.
With the large first-year class coming to campus in the fall, said Knefle, the housing and meal plan services staff is preparing to accommodate the new students. “We will have enough housing for students,” he said.