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Down for the count but not out- Enrollment takes expected drop

As expected, Missouri Western’s undergraduate enrollment numbers are down for the 2016 spring semester.

Currently, 4,374 undergraduates are enrolled this semester, down from 4,694 last spring. This follows after the university saw a drop in last semester’s enrollment numbers as well.

Interim Director of Admissions Peggy Payne said the seven percent decrease was expected and natural during the spring semester.
“We follow true to course in what we were looking at for fall, so we are down,” Payne said. “This is typical because if you’re down in the fall, it’s going to carry over into the spring, but strategically we put some actions in place that going in we knew would probably see a decline in enrollment.”

Some of those actions that the university knew would affect enrollment involved changes to policies regarding admitted with conditions (AWC) students and who can live on campus. Starting in fall of 2015, only full-time students could live on campus. This meant that students who are admitted with conditions were only allowed to enroll part-time at MWSU and could no longer live on campus, deterring some from enrolling.

Associate Provost Douglas Davenport said that an improving economy has also affected a particular portion of the MWSU’s student body and has contributed to the enrollment decline.

“The group I would say where we do see some significant changes is the nontraditional student enrollment,” Davenport said. “So, for instance, those who are age 29 plus, that percentage is down 16 percent. So, there are fewer 30 year old students than the 25 to 29 age bracket that’s down 11 percent. So, when you look at this, while our first time full-time students are down, there is also this other fairly important component to our student population that is down. That we would presume is due, in part at least, to the economy. People are getting jobs, so they’re not staying in college.”

With undergraduate student enrollment down, so are the number of credit hours they are taking. The total number of undergraduate credit hours is down 7.9 percent to 50,787 credit hours this semester from a total of 55,153 last spring. Again, this was a drop that was expected due to the decrease in fall enrollment.

“You would expect that if you have a decrease in the fall, then it follows that you have a decrease in the spring,” Davenport said, “so those numbers are fairly consistent in terms of proportion. But yes, it is [a concern]. We’re not the only institution dealing with it, but yes.”

State and national trends have not only shown that fewer people are going to college, but that high school graduating class sizes are getting smaller as well, which has affected many colleges.

Payne said that while Western may not be exempt from the trends, recruitment efforts for the fall are doing well.
“Our applicants for next fall are looking good,” Payne said. “However, trend-wise, demographics across the nations are showing what we thought was going to be until 2017, that graduating class sizes are declining, but now they are saying this is going to be extended until 2020. So that means that everyone is fighting for fewer students.”

To help in the fight for recruiting students, Western will be using new tools in the near future. One tool is a customer relations manager (CRM) program which will help build a personal relationship with recruited students. Western will also be attempting to use data analytics to pinpoint any possible problem areas for students over the course of their college experience.

Despite all the new technology and information out there, student success, Davenport said, is the most effective recruitment tool Western has.

“To the degree that we can put our best foot forward, make sure that the students who are here are having a great experience and are successful, that is, to me, the best recruiting strategy you can have,” Davenport said.

Only time will tell if Missouri Western can boost enrollment for the coming fall. Walk-in registration for fall classes is Aug. 23 and classes begin on Aug. 29.

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