Wichita State University (WSU)

Location: Wichita, KS


With a long tradition of innovation and entrepreneurship, Wichita State University has undergone a significant transformation in recent years. After implementing a new vision and mission to be an internationally recognized model for applied learning and research, the campus added dozens of new state-of-the-art buildings, housing, and campus life initiatives to attract and support more students. WSU leadership knew that the university also needed a more strategic approach to its enrollment aligned with its new mission and vision.


With a clear imperative to grow enrollment, WSU realized that achieving this goal would not happen overnight. Reaching ambitious enrollment targets would require a multi-year strategy and a comprehensive Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM) plan. Leadership also wanted to increase awareness and understanding of SEM and its benefits among faculty and staff across the university.

WSU decided to engage leading SEM experts AACRAO Consulting to provide assistance with its SEM plan development in an effort to position the university for long-term enrollment success. AACRAO Consulting was tasked with collaborating with WSU’s SEM project staff to create the framework for the university’s plan while promoting buy-in across the university.


AACRAO Consulting’s engagement included on-site interviews with WSU leadership and staff, exhaustive information-gathering and data analysis, and monthly on-campus consultation. AACRAO Consultants worked closely with WSU’s SEM project team to create a committee of faculty, students and staff responsible for identifying key enrollment goals and a clear pathway for achieving them.

Throughout this process, AACRAO Consultants guided the committee — raising questions, sharing insights and best practices, and offering recommendations to help formulate and implement the university’s final SEM plan. They also met with faculty and staff across multiple departments to communicate the objectives and benefits of taking a more strategic approach to long-term enrollment.

Under AACRAO Consulting’s guidance, WSU prioritized seven enrollment goals, including fostering a campus-wide culture of enrollment growth; increasing enrollment and retention among underserved populations; expanding the geographic reach of recruitment efforts beyond the immediate service area; identifying new academic programs aimed at supporting enrollment growth; and increasing enrollment in online programs. AACRAO Consulting additionally assisted WSU with developing and implementing a communications plan to support more effective recruitment marketing efforts and increase yield.


As a direct result of implementing its SEM plan, WSU is on track to achieving all of its identified enrollment goals by the target year 2020. To date, the university has seen a measurable improvement across multiple enrollment areas. Total first-time-in-college (FTIC) applications increased from 6,324 to 8,684 between 2015 and 2018. Total admissions of enroll-eligible students rose from 3,069 to 4,215 during the same time period. The university saw an increase in total enrolled students from 14,495 to 15,784. The university plans to welcome 18,150 enrolled students by 2020.

In addition to significantly expanding its geographic reach for new student recruitment, WSU has seen an increase in underrepresented minority FTIC enrollments from under 15% of all FTIC enrolled students in 2015 to 21.4% in 2018. WSU has also experienced gains in retention rates for full-time FTIC students, reaching 72.8% retention into the second year for the 2017 cohort. The university has set a goal of 80% retention from first to second year by 2020, and is now working toward achieving that.