May 19, 2009

Admissions makes small budget cuts, keeps recruiting travel expenses

Despite a nationwide trend at universities to trim costs by cutting back on travel, representatives from the U of C Admissions Office will continue to travel across the world to recruit students. The office will be giving up plans for a new mail-opening system and aiming for more efficiency in order to meet their 4-percent budget cut announced last month.

Universities like Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, and Harvard plan to focus their limited resources on personalized mailing and electronic communication instead of costly trips.

According to Vice President and Dean of College Admissions and Financial Aid Michael Behnke, one of the University’s admissions counselors recently returned from the Far East, noting that other institutions had scaled back on such large trips.

The University considers travel to the high schools of prospective students to be essential to the recruitment process, and has not changed its travel plans. Dean of Admissions Ted O’Neill commented that for this year, “We haven’t been hampered in our work. We’ve done everything we’ve done before and more.”

Future plans include a partnership with the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for a travel program aimed at recruiting high school students. Behnke’s successor, Jim Nondorf is currently the vice president of enrollment at Rensselaer.

Joint travel programs with other admissions departments that are already in place will continue. According to O’Neill, U of C admissions counselors currently travel with Columbia, Cornell, Brown, Rice, and others to conferences worldwide.

Though admissions will have to cut costs, it plans to do so by eliminating smaller expenses and searching for ways to be more efficient.

“Nothing will be cut back from the core [programs of admissions],” Behnke said.

Admissions was forced to forgo outsourcing their mail-opening to a scanning service in order to trim costs. “It would’ve been nice to have, but it’s not something we’re dependent upon,” Behnke said.

In another cost-cutting measure, one of the open house days for prospective students will be cut next year, which Behnke said was one of the easier items to eliminate from the budget. He said that while the number of students on campus for daily visits have increased in recent years, there has been a decrease in prospective students visiting for the open house programs.

Behkne said he hopes to meet the remainder of the required budget cuts through small cost-saving measures and “efficiencies.” “For instance, not sending out the mail at the last minute and having to send it priority,” Behnke said.

The admissions office does not face budget cuts as steep as other departments. “Students are the lifeblood of the University. I should think that putting that at risk would be a dangerous thing,” O’Neill said.