Pre-orientations offer scholarships, some see lower enrollment
This fall, some pre-orientation programs saw a decrease in enrollment—and therefore funding—but all received varying degrees of scholarship money for participants.
While scholarship programs allowed new students to participate in pre-orientation, budget cuts as a result of decreased enrollment meant that some programs—including the campus television station WUTV’s “As Seen on WUTV”—could not afford to put on scheduled programming.
Among the advertised benefits of pre-orientation programs are the opportunities to meet friends, explore interests on campus and delve into St. Louis life. According to First Year Center Director Katharine Pei, the FYC was not previously able to offer scholarships for the pre-orientation programs because groups and organizations ran them individually.
“After speaking with the individual program directors and leaders about our concerns regarding costs, we determined it was feasible for each program to offer at least one scholarship; some programs were able to offer several,” Pei told Student Life. The number of scholarships per program ranged from one to 10.
Although opportunities were created to accommodate the diverse pool of students, various programs suffered from low enrollment and thus limited funding.
Ross Arkin, junior and business manager of WUTV, reported that the “As Seen On WUTV” pre-orientation program saw its enrollment numbers cut in half from last year, going from 16 students to eight. They offered two scholarships.
“Our enrollment was half of what it was last year…we basically couldn’t really even afford to do a lot of stuff that we planned to do because there’s so many fixed costs,” Arkin said. “We wanted to go bowling, but it would have essentially been the same cost had we had 20 kids or eight kids, and with just eight kids we can’t pay for it.”
Although WUTV doesn’t consider the pre-orientation its biggest recruitment effort, Arkin noted that the year WUTV was at its smallest was the one year it didn’t have a pre-orientation program.
The FYC cracked down this year on individual program advertising, and made more of an effort to delete and discourage Facebook posts encouraging freshmen to sign up for specific programs.
Another pre-orientation program that was affected by low enrollment number was Campus Comedy, which, like WUTV, offered two scholarships. Senior Joe Holley, a leader of the program, noted that although they aren’t sure why they saw lower numbers this year, they think programs would benefit from marketing themselves. Their enrollment dropped from in the last year from 20 to 13.
“Programs do sort of know in some ways the best ways to market themselves,” Holley said. “So if we had a little bit more of an opportunity to work with FYC in actually coordinating how our marketing gets done, it might help with some enrollment.”
Some larger programs, however, faced no such issues. L.A.U.N.C.H., for example, the Campus Y pre-orientation, had a total of 188 participants and was able to offer 10 scholarships.
When asked about next year’s plans, the FYC said that increasing scholarships is a priority.
“Moving forward, we hope to work with the program sponsors and the University in order to offer more scholarships for pre-orientation,” Pei said.