Interview with Gary Daynes, Provost at Barton College
What are some of the goals of Barton College's Enrollment office this year?
Prior to coming to Barton, I served as VP of Enrollment at Westminster College in Salt Lake City. At Barton, I am a provost in the traditional sense, overseeing the faculty and core learning support areas. In addition, though, I oversee admissions, financial aid, and marketing. One thing I've found is that we need to get better at linking enrollment management with what goes on in the classroom at Barton. We should be thinking about this from the first moment of contact with the student all the way through graduation to increase the likelihood of student success. We need to align our messaging, expectations, processes, and student support. I oversee an unusual combination of areas, but there is a logic to it. What goes on in the classroom is influenced by expectations students bring with them. Those expectations are shaped long before students get into the classroom--in the enrollment and communication phases.
Barton is an opportunity college. Students come here because they are seeking a college education to give them opportunities that are not available to them elsewhere. Nearly everyone who comes here arrives with a focus on career. Our students have a greater focus on how their education will lead them to a job and the ability to contribute to their family and community. Many of our students are Pell grant eligible, from rural areas, or attended high schools that were not strong academically. We often enroll students who have had financial responsibility for their families. Their parents are sacrificing in remarkable ways so that they can be in college. Ultimately to serve our students successfully, we need to be able to look at two prospective students with the same academic profile, and enroll the one that's likely to be successful here. Identifying resilience and internal motivation goes a long way, but we also need simultaneously push and support them so they can be successful.
How will PPY affect enrollment at Barton College?
There are two challenges to the prior-prior year FAFSA filing change this year. The first is that students can file earlier and use prior year data. That of course creates a number of technical challenges. We have to move up in the calendar year when we provide financial aid packages to students and change how we communicate those packages. We need to review every students financial aid package twice. We review once in November when they submit their application, and again in in January when the need based grant becomes available.
Before this change, our accepted students weren't making that decision until much later, sometimes as late as July. Now, we need to be prepared to work with students who have chosen Barton as their college as early as November. This is the second challenge--how we engage those students during the long period between early packaging and the start of the school year. With PPY, there will be a long period of time between Thanksgiving and August where it's up to our faculty, staff, and administration to engage with accepted students in different sorts of ways. It's important that this extended period doesn't change their decision about enrolling at Barton. We're being challenged to come up with creative strategies to deepen their connection and commitment, and looking into ways to prepare students to be successful once they enroll.
In a small college setting, shifting our enrollment schedule earlier is not the challenge. The key is to shift campus activities to build this affiliation with accepted students. A change like that takes resources, time, and administrative support to happen well. We’re talking about holding an earlier orientation in January or February instead of June or July. We enroll many student athletes, who we can connect with during the competitive season. Most of our students come from North Carolina. We have an opportunity to get those students on campus on a more regular basis and involved in the curriculum much earlier than they would otherwise. Philosophically if we do this right, our accepted students will spend more time on campus, be engaged with current students and participating in activities with the college. Barton, like most schools our size, is scrambling to get these changes in place.
Part of the challenge is getting the right people around the table. While financial aid offices have been worried about this upcoming shift for months, we worry that the full impact has not seeped into other departments on campus like student life and academic affairs.
Through all of this, you have to make sure that you are serving the students that are actually your students. Even though every school is being affected by PPY, the type of college of university will determine the impact. Schools who have more early decision applicants and fewer pell eligible applicants will see less of an impact. At an opportunity school, though, creation and maintenance of affiliation is different. The admissions office and marketing office have to be aware that the longer period of time will make it more difficult to keep students connected to the college.
Dr. Gary Daynes is Professor of History and Provost at Barton College in Wilson, NC. Prior to joining Barton he served as Associate Provost for Integrative Learning and later as Vice President for Strategic Outreach and Enrollment at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, UT. Gary's research and teaching focus on civic engagement and vocation; he is an avid trail runner.