By the Numbers: 2023 Enrollment After Action Report

Sunday, September 24, 2023 - 12:45pm

In response to a request from Executive Vice Chancellor Ankerson, the College of Journalism and Mass Communications assessed recruitment and retention efforts impacting fall 2023 enrollment figures as reported in the University Census.  

To conduct the assessment, the college first analyzed census enrollment related to both undergraduate and graduate student populations and the college’s retention and graduation outcomes. The full assessment is available here. The report was shared with all college faculty and staff on Monday, Sept. 18.  

After reviewing the report, the college student success team met to discuss the report and how recent recruitment and retention efforts impacted recruitment and retention. The discussion included Dean Shari Veil, Associate Dean for Academic Programs Adam Wagler, Director of Business and Operations Haley Hamel, Director of Advising Alisa Smith and Assistant Director of Recruitment Alex Fernando.  

Incoming Freshmen 

The college increased its incoming freshman class by 5.8%, increasing from 171 in fall 2022 to 181 in fall 2023. Growth was driven by resident students, growing from 94 in fall 2022 to 125 in fall 2023. During the same period, non-resident freshmen declined from 77 to 56. Two of the college's four undergraduate programs increased this year, including broadcasting (18.2%) and sports media and communications (9.5%). Advertising and public relations remained flat at 45 incoming freshmen, while journalism declined by one student (3.3%).  

During an Enrollment After Action Review in the fall of 2022, the college identified adjustments to its recruiting strategy, including the expansion of our a la carte workshop program in Nebraska and key out-of-state markets, providing more in-person and virtual interactions with students and establishing partnerships with community organizations that target underrepresented students.  

The college’s a la carte workshop program offers hands-on workshops taught by college faculty and students to high school teachers throughout the state and the region. Teachers can select from pre-designed workshops or customize one to meet their instructional needs. Teachers can also select to hold the workshop in their classroom or travel to the UNL campus.  

The college successfully grew the a la carte workshop program from 44 workshops completed in 2021-2022 to 79 completed in 2022-2023. The majority of workshops were held in Nebraska, with a focus on high schools in the Omaha area and Lincoln.   

The college also added additional campus events, both in-person and virtual, to engage with prospective students. The college held three CoJMC Connections events during the 2022-2023 school year, inviting students to engage with faculty and a panel of current students to learn more about opportunities available at CoJMC. A new event, "In the Studio," provided prospective students with the opportunity to participate in a hands-on simulation of a post-game show for Husker Football and Volleyball. The event was held in the college’s newly renovated Don and Lorena Meier Studio.  

The college also successfully expanded its community partnerships with organizations that serve underrepresented students. Engagement with each partner is tailored to meet the organization's needs but can include after-school workshops, tours of campus, mini-camps, presentations about college and current student panels. In 2022-2023, the college added partnerships with Girls, Inc., Junior Achievement and Youth Leadership Lincoln.  

In 2022-2023, the college received a grant from the Cooper Foundation to launch an afterschool program at Bay High, a Lincoln Public Schools focus program that provides concentrated educational opportunities to public school students interested in digital storytelling. Associate Professor of Practice Alan Eno and Assistant Director of Recruitment Alex Fernando developed a yearlong two-day-a-week program that provides Bay High students the opportunity to participate in workshops taught by CoJMC faculty and student ambassadors and to create content for publication by Rabble Media. Additionally, the college partnered with the UNL Office of Admissions to host workshops on applying to college for Bay High students.  

The college expected that these enhanced recruitment efforts would result in increases throughout the recruitment funnel. These efforts were ultimately successful, with an increase in applications (13.8%), admits (13.7%), gross deposits (20.3%) and net deposits (19.1%).  

Increases throughout the funnel resulted in an increased enrollment of 5.8% at the census date. Additionally, the college saw an increase in underrepresented students, with the most significant increases in Hispanic and Latino students, which grew from 6.5% to 10.1% and multiracial students, which grew from 3.6% to 7.8%.  

Adjustments for 2023-2024 

A la carte workshop program 
The college will continue efforts to expand the a la carte workshop program to key out-of-state markets, including Minneapolis, Chicago and Kansas City. We believe that early engagement with our programs through hands-on workshops will encourage additional out-of-state students to apply.  

Community partnerships
In addition to maintaining current partnerships, the college will expand community partnerships. Our student ambassador team will offer weekly workshops to students enrolled in the Boys and Girls Club throughout the year. The college will participate in a day-long conference hosted by Class Intercom, which works with many Nebraska High Schools to manage their social media. Lastly, the college will partner with Lincoln Public Schools to host a media days event surrounding a high school sporting event.  

Bay High School 
The college is transitioning the Bay High Partnership from an afterschool program to a partnership with Bay High teachers in required journalism courses. In the program, the college will work with the teacher to offer recurring hands-on media workshops as part of the required course. Additionally, the college will work with the teacher to develop a course curriculum that will support the pursuit of dual credit between Lincoln Public Schools and UNL for students enrolled in the program.  

Yield activities 
The college will partner with the Office of Admissions to pursue digital marketing, encouraging students to pay their enrollment deposit in spring 2024. Additionally, the college will evaluate its current yield activities to ensure we offer a high-touch personalized experience that supports student enrollment.  

Transfer students  

The college experienced a significant increase in transfer students from external programs between the fall of 2021 and the fall of 2022, growing from 14 to 30 students. While the college didn’t grow its transfer student population this year, we did maintain the gains experienced last year and remained flat at 30 students.  

Transfer student enrollment shifted, with two programs, advertising and public relations (-2) and broadcasting (-4), declining in transfer students. At the same time, journalism (+2) and sports media and communication (+4) grew.  

In previous years, the college has worked to provide better information to transfer students through a dedicated webpage addressing their unique circumstances, providing some transfer student scholarships and engaging academic advisers early in the recruitment process to ease the transfer credit evaluations.  

Enrolling transfer students is a challenge for the college due to the requirements of our accrediting body. Only six credit hours from a non-accredited institution can be transferred into our majors.  

Adjustments for 2023-2024 

External pathways for transfer students 
During this academic year, our assistant director of recruitment and director of advising will partner to build relationships with transfer feeder schools to identify ways to smooth the transitions between programs and address the constraints imposed by our accrediting body.  


In addition to growth in first-time freshmen, the college also saw increases in other freshmen (12.1%), sophomores (7.8%) and juniors (10.3%). The only class level that experienced declines was seniors (-8.4%). Internal transfers with other campus units drove changes in upper-class students.  


In the fall of 2022, the college started with 171 incoming freshmen. At the end of the academic year, the college had 213 sophomores for a net increase of 42 students. A total of 86 students transferred into the college from other campus programs. The largest feeder programs were the Explore Center (34) and the College of Business (29). An additional 23 students transferred from other academic programs.  

Fewer students transferred from the college, with 12 to the College of Business, six to Arts and Sciences and six to Education and Human Sciences. An additional four transferred to other campus colleges. Four students left the campus, but enrolled on other University of Nebraska campuses, and 12 left the system entirely.  


In the fall of 2021, the college started with 146 incoming freshmen. This year, the college has 210 juniors for a net increase of 64 students. A total of 113 students transferred into the college from other campus programs. Again, the largest feeder programs for the junior class are the Explore Center (53) and the College of Business (25). The College of Arts and Sciences also contributed 11 students. An additional 24 students came from other campus colleges.  

Forty-nine of the original 146 freshmen have transferred out of the college. Twelve have transferred to the College of Business, five to Arts and Sciences, five to Education and Human Sciences and six to Fine and Performing Arts. Twenty-one students left the NU System.  


In fall 2020, 141 students enrolled in the college as incoming freshmen. This year, the college has 177 seniors, for a net increase of 36 students. Ninety-five seniors have transferred into the college from other programs, with the largest feeder programs being the Explore Center (41), Arts and Sciences (24) and Business (19).  

Fifty-nine of the original 141 freshmen have transferred out of the program. Eight transferred to Arts and Sciences and Business, five transferred to Education and Human Sciences, four transferred to Fine and Performing Arts and one to Agriculture and Natural Resources. Thirty-three students left the NU System.  

In total, for current sophomores, juniors and seniors who started as freshmen in CoJMC, 142 have transferred to other colleges or left the university. At the same time, 292 students have transferred into the college from other campus programs.  


Transfer To*  

Transfer From** 

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Left University 








* Students who started in JMC as freshmen but have left the college.  

** Students who started elsewhere as freshman but have transferred into JMC.  


Insufficient data is unavailable to determine which of the college’s programs they are transferring into.  

Providing pathways for these students that allow them to seamlessly transition into our programs and graduate in a timely manner is an element in promoting continued enrollment in the college and university. To support these efforts, the college offers two minors. The minors allow students interested in our programs to enroll as minors and begin completing courses earlier in their academic careers. If they choose to transition into one of our majors, they will already be on a path to completing their degree requirements.  

The minor in broadcasting has been in existence for many years. However, it was only opened to all campus majors in 2021. In 2022-2023, the college obtained approval for a new minor in advertising and public relations, which is launching in fall 2023.  

Adjustments for 2023-2024

Continuing to build and promote pathways for student’s internal transfer students both into and out of the college remains a priority. We believe that helping students find the right academic home and providing pathways for students who start in our programs later in their academic careers promotes our overall retention rates.  

Internal pathways for transfer students 
This year will focus on working with our on-campus feeder programs, Explore Center, College of Business and College of Fine and Performing Arts, to better identify these potential students earlier in their academic careers and encourage them to enroll in one of the college’s minors to ease their transition into our programs.  

Graduate Students 

The college’s graduate student population declined slightly in fall 2023, dropping from 65 in fall 2022 to 64. This small decline in overall graduate student enrollment is impressive, given that in May 2023, the college had a historically large graduating class of 27 students.  

In the Fall 2022 Enrollment After Action report, the college identified adjustments to graduate student recruitment, including working with the student-run advertising agency, Jacht, to launch a digital media marketing campaign, evaluating the viability of continuing a financial communications certificate and launching a graduate certificate in sports media and communication.  

In the spring of 2023, the college successfully implemented a paid digital advertising campaign to promote the graduate program. The campaign targeted potential graduate students to encourage applications leading up to the fall 2023 application deadline of July 1 Three separate campaigns were administered over the months of May and June.  

The college also evaluated the financial communications certificate. The program, offered in partnership with the College of Business, has failed to achieve significant enrollment, enrolling only a maximum of three students simultaneously since it launched in 2017. The colleges jointly decided to cease promoting this program and focus resources elsewhere. 

Lastly, the college faculty successfully approved a new graduate certificate in sports media and communication  Recent offerings of graduate courses in this area have shown tremendous enrollment by current graduate students and, we believe, will attract additional enrollment in the college. The certificate was submitted for campus-level review in December of 2022 While campus-level approval is slated to take 16 to 20 weeks, the program has only received approval from the Office of Graduate Studies and the UNL Graduate Council almost ten months after initial submission and must still achieve approval at the university and state levels.  

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The lengthy process for obtaining program approval for new academic programs is a barrier to adapting to the changing interests and needs of current and prospective students and the needs of the industries we serve.  

The college expected these efforts to increase graduate student enrollment. Although graduate student enrollment declined by one student, we believe these efforts achieved their intended results. We experienced a tremendous increase in first-time graduate student enrollment, which grew from 16 in fall 2022 to 26 in fall 2023, a 62.5% increase. In 2022-2023, we also graduated the largest class of graduate students in the history of the college.  

Adjustments for 2023-2024  

Digital Marketing 
In 2023-2024, the college will work with the student-run advertising agency, Jacht, to analyze the results from previous digital marketing campaigns and expand our efforts to increase graduate applications The college will also participate in a pilot program with Kevin Shriner, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Digital and Online Learning, to promote fully online graduate programs. The college’s Integrated Media Communications master’s specialization will be featured in the pilot, including coordinated promotional efforts leading to a tailored webpage and comprehensive communications with prospective students leveraging Salesforce Technology.  

Responsive programming 
Lastly, the college hopes to gain full approval to offer the graduate certificate in sports promotion beginning in the fall of 2024.  


The college achieved tremendous first-, second- and third-year retention rates for undergraduate students in fall 2023. Our first-year retention rate is 91.2%, exceeded only by the College of Architecture. Our second-year rate (85.6%) and third-year rate (76.6%) led the campus rates.  

In 2022-2023, the college built upon previous retention programming that resulted in campus-leading rates across the board in fall 2022. Enhancements to current programming included expanding our college success course, implementing the university’s student success metrics, opting into the course outliers report and adjusting the curriculum to remove bottlenecks. Additionally, the college implemented some new initiatives to support student retention and persistence, including adding an academic navigator to the student success team and institution of an experiential learning requirement.  

In the spring of 2022, the college opened a new section of the student success introductory course for transfer students. Prior to that time, the course was only required for incoming freshmen. The course provides students with academic success strategies, degree planning, information on navigating the university community and opportunities to engage with college programs.  

The college continued implementing measures to support student success, including encouraging faculty to provide feedback by Week 4 and encouraging students to meet with their adviser each semester. In fall 2022, 97.3% of courses provided feedback by week four (the highest rate on campus) and in Spring 2023, 96% of college courses did so.  

The college also continued to encourage students to meet with their advisor each semester, and in the fall of 2022, 97.1% of incoming freshmen did so. Unfortunately, data is unavailable from the spring of 2023 due to the transition to the Student Success Hub.  

The college also added an academic navigator, in partnership with the Colleges of Fine and Performing Arts and Architecture, to its student success team in fall 2022. The Academic Navigator uses available data to identify struggling students, conducts outreach to connect students to campus resources and provides one-on-one academic success coaching.  

In 2022-2023, the college was the first to enroll all courses in the course outliers report, which provides live information on students who are falling behind on courses. The report allows Academic Navigators to conduct targeted outreach to struggling students.  

Lastly, in the fall of 2022, new curriculum requirements went into effect that require students to engage in experiential learning in the college. Now, every student who enrolls in the college must work 4-6 hours per week in the Experience Lab as part of their degree requirements. In the program, they work with faculty liaisons and professional mentors in a student-led media outlet or agency  

These programs are intended to improve student retention at all levels and reduce equity gaps. As noted above, the college successfully maintained its position as a campus leader in student retention.  

Our overall retention success has not translated to reduced retention equity gaps for our underrepresented, first-generation and pell-eligible students. The data demonstrates significant variability in these metrics and the gaps are difficult to analyze and draw conclusions from, given the small size of these populations in the college (sometimes less than a dozen in a cohort). For example, while the percentage gap for freshmen URM students ranged from -2.9% to -13.1% from 2018-2022, we lost the same number of individual students (3) in each of those years.




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Adjustments for 2023-2024 

Focus on the third-year 
The college’s retention rates are particularly high, but we will focus on gaining a better understanding of the lowest among our rates, our third-year retention rate. Our Associate Dean for Academic Programs, Adam Wagler, and Director of Advising, Alisa Smith, will analyze our curriculum and student data for insights about why students depart the college at this stage in their academic careers. Following their analysis, they will make recommendations to improve third-year retention.  

Expanding Experiential Learning
The college will also expand the Experience Lab. First, completing three semesters of the Experience Lab became a requirement for all incoming students in fall 2023. As a result of this requirement, participation will grow. Additionally, students can enroll in the Experience Lab as early as their first semester and will be encouraged to enroll early in their academic careers. We believe this will result in increased retention and persistence of students in our programs. Additionally, the college will add an additional option for Experience Lab students with the launch of Production House in the fall of 2023.  Production House will provide students with real-world experiences in photography, videography and live streaming.  

Course Outliers 
The college will also focus on developing an outreach plan in response to the Course Outliers dashboard, leveraging the skills of our academic navigator.  

Focus on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 
Finally, the college will focus on improving retention equity gaps. In 2022-2023, the college adopted a new Diversity and Inclusion Plan that seeks to develop a diverse and inclusive culture and climate, create an academic environment for student success and incorporate DEI into our curriculumWe believe the successful advancement of the goals and strategies contained in the DEI plan will improve our retention equity gaps.  

Graduate Student Retention

The university doesn’t provide figures on graduate student retention. However, the college’s enrollment from “other graduate students” (as opposed to first-time graduate students) declined from 49 to 41 (-16.3%). Retaining graduate students is an area of concern for the college.  

To support these efforts, the college has assigned a staff academic adviser to support graduate students’ success. In addition to faculty advising, the staff academic adviser provides students with a dedicated resource for advice and guidance on enrollment options, graduate policies and procedures and campus resources.  

Efforts to improve graduate student retention are challenged in several ways. First, a lack of data on our graduate student population makes understanding the enrollment patterns in our graduate programs difficult. Second, a lack of tools and resources to track interactions and communications with our graduate students makes developing comprehensive outreach and engagement programs challenging. Lastly, outdated and manual graduate student processes force us to spend time and resources on administrative matters that would be more impactful if dedicated to supporting student success.  

Adjustments for 2023-2024  

Student Support 
Despite a lack of available data, the college plans to take several steps to promote graduate student retention. The college’s graduate committee will develop a graduate program resource Canvas Course, to provide students with information about their academic program, degree requirements, policies and procedures, upcoming course offerings and campus resources. The goal of the course is to ensure that students have a thorough understanding of the steps they need to take to graduate and access to the resources and support they need.   

Program assessment 
The college will develop a comprehensive assessment plan for our graduate programs. Today, we administer a student exit survey to graduate students but don’t have a comprehensive plan to assess student learning. We believe the information provided by assessing student learning will allow us to make informed changes to the program that support student retention and success.