For the first time in eight years, Missouri Western has experienced an enrollment decrease.
Last year, 6,259 students were enrolled, according to the Missouri Department of Higher Education. However, current enrollment for fall semester is 6,074 students. That is a 3.5 percent decrease from last year.
“We have been told for a number of years that our enrollment is likely to decrease,” Jeanne Daffron, provost and vice president for academic affairs, said about the decrease. “Primarily because the number of graduating high school seniors in Missouri is decreasing … We have kind of bucked that trend because that has been going on for years.”
Daffron speculated that the economy has affected the number of graduating high school students as well as enrollment numbers.
“I think that sometimes with this lingering recession type of economy, I know they say that we are out of the recession but that is a technical kind of out, you know, probably not how everyone is feeling about the resources they have. People make decisions when you are in that kind of a situation,” Daffron said.
Howard McCauley, the dean of Enrollment Management, agreed that the economy has had an effect on enrollment.
“The economy of returning students, transfer students, non-traditional students — that affects everyone,” McCauley said. “The economy right now has been going on for several years and in the past we saw the economy go up and down up and down and it all kind of levels out to a certain point but that’s really been an issue.”
McCauley also added that although Western is experiencing a dip in enrollment, the university has grown progressively up to this year.
“Western has had a steady growth from 1986 to 2012,” McCauley said. “We have grown about 2,224 students. That’s roughly a 36 percent increase over that time, and when we look at the applications that are coming in they are also coming in at a steady increase.”
While the total student headcount has fallen, Daffron said that the decrease won’t affect the university’s funding.
“It doesn’t really change how we allocate dollars across the university,” Daffron said. “Our budget actually is approved by our Board of Governors, and so it needs be approved by the end of June because our fiscal year begins July 1. So the budget, of course, is a budget plan in reality, and as things happen throughout the years then you make adjustments.”
Although the enrollment decrease will not change the allocation of money across campus, eventually lower enrollment numbers could affect Western’s state funding.