College drawing smaller percentage from inside county

Mesa State College’s freshman classes are steadily growing, but Mesa County students are making up a smaller percentage of first-time undergraduate enrollment.

Mesa State College is the designated regional education provider for 14 counties in western Colorado, and students from Mesa County historically have made up the largest portion of first-time undergraduates at the college.

First-time undergraduates at Mesa State have risen from 1,129 students in 2003 to 1,359 in 2007, according to end-of-fall-semester enrollment figures. However, the percentage of first-time undergraduates entering Mesa State from Mesa County has fallen from 49.2 percent to 41.1 percent in the same time though the numbers of Mesa County students — 556 in 2003 and 558 in 2007 — are essentially the same. The 2008 numbers are still being tabulated.

Yet, first-time undergraduates at Mesa State hailing from School District 51, who make up the largest portion of Mesa County students bound for Mesa State, have steadily increased, with a 6.5 percent jump in enrollment this year alone, Mesa State spokeswoman Dana Nunn said.

Al Baumartle, a counselor at De Beque Undivided High School, said he thinks his students are becoming more aware of college options outside of their immediate area, while Mesa State’s efforts to recruit District 51 students as well as students from outside its 14-county designation are paying off.

“Used to be, we got no visitors because we’re such a small school,” Baumartle said, adding De Beque’s average graduating class is about 15 students. “We now have a regular pool of recruiters that visit our schools.”

Baumartle said he has made a point during his 13-year career to bring in recruiters every year from schools such as Colorado State University, Western State College, schools in Wyoming and numerous community colleges from around the region.

“Students are getting acquainted with other options,” Baumartle said.

Mesa State employs a full-time recruiter in Denver and southern California, Nunn said. The recruiting position in Denver has been filled for at least two years after sitting vacant for a brief period, she said.

“Face-to-face recruitment is one of the best tools out there,” Nunn said. “In our outreach efforts, we visit all public high schools in the 14-county area, and we visit the majority of public high schools in Colorado.”

First-time Colorado undergraduates from counties outside Mesa, Delta, Montrose, Garfield and Jefferson counties have increased from 23.6 percent in 2003 to 29.5 percent in 2007, according to end-of-fall numbers.

“We do as much recruiting outside of the 14-county area as the budget will allow,” Nunn said.

The budget for the admissions office, which primarily is responsible for recruiting, is $800,000, Nunn said. This year it funded a new marketing campaign that included the local airing of television commercials for the first time. The commercials began airing during the 2008 Summer Olympics opening ceremony.

In District 51, Nunn said Mesa State benefits from proximity and visits high schools at least once a month, holding workshops on financial aid and housing. It also hosts a number of events such as one last fall when the application fee was waived for any student who applied to Mesa State during the event.

This year’s application-fee-waiver event was the first by Mesa State in a while, said Misty Sellden, a counselor at Central High School. She said admissions staff from the college are at her school at least once a week.

Concerns over the economy have made Mesa State an even more attractive option for students this year, Sellden said. Mesa State offers lower tuition than other public schools in the state as well as the option for students to live at home instead of student housing, she said.


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