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Recruit & Retain (Langston University)

Reworking the Brand

Langston University sees an impressive increase in enrollments.

In an era of shrinking college student numbers, any increase in enrollment can be seen as a step in the right direction. A double-digit increase means that an institution’s efforts to draw in potential students are working — a phenomenon that Langston University in Oklahoma witnessed over the past year.

The University reported a 45 percent increase in first-time freshmen enrollment in 2013 over 2012, enrolling 619 new students, one of the largest classes in the 116-year history of the institution.

Established in 1897, Langston University is the only historically black institution of higher education in the state of Oklahoma. A four-year, state-supported, land-grant institution, it has an average enrollment of approximately 3,000 students on campuses located in Langston, Tulsa and Oklahoma City and is recognized as a leader in the field of agricultural research.

“Students from across the country are recognizing the tremendous educational value and quality available at Langston University,” says Langston University President Dr. Kent J. Smith, Jr.

A Unique Position

Part of the spike in enrollment could be due to the University’s unique position in the current landscape of higher education, notes Dr. Smith. “As Oklahoma’s only Historically Black College and University (HBCU), and the westernmost HBCU in the country, Langston University has an incredible opportunity to serve the public good through our unique urban and rural land-grant educational mission.”

Another reason Dr. Smith credits for the rise in enrollment is a re-imagining of certain academic programs, as well as a re-evaluation of the value a college needs to offer its students. “Our quality academic programs combined with our low-cost tuition and fees model afford students from across the economic spectrum the opportunity to earn a college degree. It is now critical we help our students remain in school, earn a degree and join the nation’s workforce.”

Dr. Smith credits the hard work of the Enrollment Management team, the University’s revamped scholarship process, and the focus on recruiting college-ready students as key factors contributing to the increased freshmen enrollment this year. “Every member of the faculty, every staff member, and every student played a critical part in recruiting students to Langston University.”

“As a university, we made the decision early in the year to work together as a team to show prospective students the exciting things happening at Langston. This collaborative approach re-energized the campus, helping produce this remarkable increase in enrollment, reversing a stagnate trend from prior years,” adds Dr. Smith.

A New President, a New Brand

Increased enrollment is a top priority in a series of initiatives in a new era at Langston University. Dr. Smith was appointed the 16th president of Langston in 2012. Previously, he served as the vice president for Student Affairs and the chief Student Affairs officer at Ohio University in Athens.

As part of its efforts, following his appointment, the university recently rolled out a refreshed brand: releasing a new Langston Lion theme, launching a new advertising campaign and unveiling a new, more robust website. University officials expect these initiatives will help Langston expand its reach and appeal to students not only in Oklahoma but also across the country.

“We believe the freshman class of 2013 is record-breaking in the number of students we attracted through a variety of outreach programs related to academics, athletics and the family atmosphere of our three campuses,” Dr. Smith continues.

“We are committed to students in a dynamic way that embraces their intellect, talents and achievements to inspire and enrich their future.”

Retention

Retaining the 2,500-member student body is another major goal and Langston is achieving that with an increased commitment to student service. The university provides a unique educational experience that is student-focused, recognizing that it is charged with meeting each student’s needs in this “city within a campus” with the greatest efficiency and finest service.

A huge segment of that customer service is engaging new technologies to upgrade the educational experience while keeping the Langston campuses on the cutting-edge for better communication, interaction, and a heightened sense of community.

In addition, Langston’s new image branding campaign that captures the pride, passion and diversity that began at Langston University in 1897. The challenge issued through this new campaign is simple — “Find the Lion in You!”

This article originally appeared in the December 2013 issue of College Planning & Management.