As of Sept. 28, Western’s official census reported a three percent drop in enrollment from fall 2015. Currently, Western has 5,388 full time students in its cohort.
Vice President of Enrollment Paul Orscheln thinks the growing economy might play a role in Western’s slight decrease in enrollment.
“We saw a significant drop in the number of students age 30 and over, and that was a major factor in our overall numbers,” Orscheln said. “That’s usually an indication that adult learners are entering the workforce rather than going back to school.”
Decreases in student enrollment have been common in many public colleges; Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, MO also experienced a one percent decrease in enrollment and currently has a student population of 6,530.
Western’s enrollment of international students is also down slightly, according to Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Jeanne Daffron.
“Our international numbers are down, because we have a lot of students that are having trouble getting a visa in their country. I know India, for one, they are going through elections and I’ve been told, during election years there, they kind of stop all that. We think they will be able to be here by January. Students that were wanting to come for the fall semester weren’t able to get all those things taken care of within their own countries,” Daffron said.
Student retention rates is another large factor that plays into a university’s public funding. Despite a dip in enrollment, Western’s retention rate for the full-time freshman class returning is at a nine-year high.
Western has obtained a 3.4 percent increase in first-time freshman and transfer student enrollment. Comparatively, Northwest has had a substantial 17.8 percent increase in first-time freshman and transfer students since the fall of 2015.
Northwest Associate Provost for Enrollment Bev Schenke was pleased with the increase of new Bearcats.
“Northwest has embarked on a number of new enrollment strategies to impact student success and retention. These strategies are aimed at removing barriers and being proactive to ensure our students are successful at achieving their educational goals,” Schenke said.
In addition to an increase in retention, Western also has a record number of 243 graduate students enrolled this fall.
“We are pleased that our relatively young master’s degree programs continue to see steady, sustainable growth,” Daffron said. “This remains an opportunity for continued growth in the future, especially as we continue to bring new programs online, including our MBA program starting next year.”