Towson’s VP of Enrollment talks joining ATI, test-option admissions, campus diversity
By: Caitlyn Freeman, Editor in Chief
As Boyd Bradshaw continues his inaugural term as Towson University’s Vice President of Enrollment Management, The Towerlight sat down with him to discuss this new role and what it means for the future student body.
Below are the transcribed questions and answers:
The Towerlight: What’s your goal for enrollment overall and for the next five years? What is TU doing to address the overall enrollment decline on the heels of the COVID pandemic?
Bradshaw: Because my position is a first-time Vice President of Enrollment Management, and so I think that the most important thing for us in my role and one of the biggest goals I’ve had is really to help the campus have a little bit better direction on what enrollment might look like, based on the environmental factors that we face […].
We learned a lot about what a pandemic can do and impact on college campuses throughout the country, and we need to think ahead. We want to plan. My goal is to have a solid plan that will allow us to meet our goals but also make sure that our students are successful and they graduate and have a great experience. They’re out there getting jobs.
And so it’s really more about, you know, we talk a lot about in our division about students are first, and we really want to focus on the student and what are the students needs, and how do we meet their needs, and how are they successful?
The Towerlight: Towson recently joined the American Talent Initiative. Why was it a priority to join and what benefit is the university hoping to gain?
Bradshaw: So ATI representatives from ATI actually reached out to us, which to us was a pat on the back for our good work. They actually had recognized our success, particularly in enrolling low-income students, because of the percentage of students that are PELL. First of all, and also just the makeup of our campus and some of the initiatives that we have in place.
You know, our students graduate at a high rate. You have to have at least a 70% graduation rate in order to qualify to be part of this initiative. We are also in the backyard of Washington, D.C., and so I think that was attractive also to have a school like Towson as part of it.
What this does is it gives us really the opportunity to connect with other universities that are doing similar work that look like us. We will learn as much from the other universities as they will from us. It also allows us to access resources and forms of grants to provide better programs for students.
The Towerlight: Have you thought of kind of like a metric yet to keep track of progress?
Bradshaw: We are working on a metric. So we were asked just within last few weeks to submit a template with goals. Each university that participates in ATI, they’re held accountable for that. So if you’re not progressing towards your goals, you could lose your membership with ATI, so that’s really, really important.
So we are still in the process of finalizing what our goals are, but we will continue to follow that and make sure that we’re doing the things that we are supposed to do to be a contributor to the effort.
The Towerlight: Based on the NCES data, Towson has a 50% four year graduation rate and a 72% six year rate. Are you worried these numbers, specifically the four-year rate will deter people from TU compared to other USM institutions?
Bradshaw: This is something that when we’re recruiting students, a big question from, particularly from parents, is about graduation rate. In a lot of universities, they found out that six-year rate, it is higher. And I think what’s important for us is when we talk about a four-year right, although it’s lower if compared to other benchmark institutions, it’s a good rate. But we as a university actually are starting to put more emphasis on four years.
That’s what enrollment management really is all about is making sure that students are able to transgress through the enrollment process. And so there many times, you know, if a student falls behind, we want to be able to help them get back on track in order to graduate in those four years.
That’s really important, especially with how costs have increased in higher ed, debt load is increasing. You know, it’s really it’s our responsibility to make sure students graduate at the times that they want.
I will be the first to also tell you there are some students that want to take a little bit more; they want to double major, they might take a semester off. And so you know, we have to also be, you know, aware of those situations as well.
The Towerlight: The College of Education is the college with the lowest number of minority students. What do you think when you hear this and what do you think can be done to address this as Towson continues to trend towards being a majority-minority institution?
Bradshaw: So I think the targeting of particular students and how we attract students to the university, a lot of it’s based on your academic programs. And so I think the disadvantage that we have with education is that it’s a hard attraction for a minority student to go into education.
Also, [recruiting students to our college of education is challenging] and the education enrollment throughout the country is just decreasing. And so it’s kind of a double challenge for us as we look at that. But, one thing that again, you know, myself being in a new position, […] we’re going to be a lot more strategic as we look forward.
So like the College of Education, for example, I’m already actually working with the dean and some of her staff in looking at ways to increase diversity. It’s not just one college or another. We have to increase diversity across the board, and each college has a different need when it comes to diversity.
You know, […] like college education also needs more men. You know, it’s women, you know, [predominantly] women are in the program. Nursing is similar. I mean, we would like to see more men in nursing.
So, you know, when you look at diversity, I think it covers all aspects of diversity. It’s important for us to know what those look those numbers look like and put strategies in place to improve.
How has USM’s decision to go test-optional impacted TU’s admissions and enrollment? Do you think Towson will continue to remain test optional?
Bradshaw: We just submitted the request to [the University System of Maryland] to officialize it. […] So, USM gave us the option, and we have decided to move forward permanently with a test-optional admission policy.
What that did for us it really opened doors to a different group of students that we’ve never been able to attract before. And when the country went to test-optional because of the pandemic, everybody was doing it, and you know, many have not gone back to require test scores.
We decided for the type of student that we want to enroll here, students [Grade Point Averages] do make a difference. I mean, we find that there are positive factors for student success. Now if a student wants to submit a test score, we’ll use it, and it will help the student, but it won’t hurt the student in regards to the way we review the admission criteria.