Chapman has been able to grow significantly during the past two decades despite declining numbers of prospective students in the most relevant 18-25 year-old age demographic. There are many reasons for this success. The most obvious is that Chapman has invested in the faculty and other resources that have enhanced our academic reputation, making Chapman the first choice for many of its applicants. In addition, concerted marketing and recruitment efforts have expanded our geographic market over the past two decades. In 2000, Chapman was principally a Southern California university, with 46% of the entering class coming from Orange County and only 9% coming from Northern California and the East/Midwest regions combined. By the fall 2017, only 17% of the freshman class came from Orange County, while 20% hailed from Northern California and another 18% came from Midwestern and Eastern states. This shift in geographic profile means that Chapman has been able to expand its market share during a period when peer institutions are facing declining enrollments.
While marketing and recruitment efforts in these diverse geographic markets will continue to be a priority, continued growth will require a concerted effort to identify and attract students from underserved segments of the higher education market. The next decade promises to bring a number of changes in the characteristics, values and types of students who will be going to college. In California, for example, Latinos/Latinas will soon become a majority of the state’s population.
The changing demographics of high school graduates in California and across the nation provide the impetus for Chapman to enhance its curriculum and student support services in ways that will enrich the campus climate with a direct impact on student success. Equally important is the concept of multicultural competency, as employers will expect college graduates to possess skills that will enable them to collaborate, lead effectively, and navigate today’s global work environment.
To ensure continued growth in an increasingly competitive market, we identified the following initiatives as essential steps to expanding our presence in underserved markets:
- Student recruitment. Develop strategies for recruiting students from underserved populations and first-generation students in our local community. Create support infrastructures and budgets in Admission and Financial Aid, plan early outreach activities, enhance community engagement, design yield events, and train recruitment staff.
- Community engagement. Develop and sustain outreach programs and partnerships with our local communities. Develop strong pathways for K-12 students in the local community and first-generation students to attend Chapman. Particular emphasis will be placed on engagement with K-12 students in the City of Orange, the City of Santa Ana, and the City of Anaheim—Chapman’s closest neighbors.
- Campus climate. Develop and implement programs, services, and physical spaces to create a welcoming campus. Strengthen campus resources to create a campus climate that supports student success with the critical goal of increasing four- to six-year graduation rates. Support for Disability Services, Student Psychological Counseling Services, Veterans Affairs, Financial Services, First Generation Student Support Services, the Center for Global Education, and the Fish Interfaith Center will be critical to this initiative.
- Curriculum. Support and expand interdisciplinary ethnic and cultural studies minors; service-learning opportunities connected to general education requirements; and professional development opportunities to assist faculty with curricular innovation.
Recruiting from underserved communities in Southern California requires convincing prospective high-quality students that Chapman is a welcoming and affordable alternative to state institutions of higher education. Enhancing Chapman’s curriculum, increasing academic service learning and community engagement with Chapman’s neighbors will help all Chapman students develop the multicultural and collaborative skill sets they need to become the effective leaders of tomorrow.