By Lori Dresner, Managing Editor/News Editor
Declining enrollment trends have continued into the spring 2017 semester at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. The university saw a 7.2 percent decrease in on-campus enrollment from fall to spring and a 4.1 percent decrease in total enrollment from last spring to this spring. For the first time in five years, however, the university saw a slight increase of 3.8 percent in new freshmen from last spring.
Alan Byrd, dean of enrollment, said that enrollment is down slightly more than expected this semester. “We expected to be down around six percent since we were down six percent in the fall, so if we had our normal attrition and a normal number of new students, we would stay about the same, but we were slightly down this spring,” he said, noting that some of the decline can be attributed to the recent graduating class.
He said that the focus this spring is figuring out how to improve the enrollment yield at the university for the upcoming fall semester, and the university has set a goal to increase enrollment by roughly one percent for the fall semester.
“Right now it’s looking like we’re going to have a record number of freshmen applications from high school students for the second year in a row, so the key there is if they’ll actually enroll … We had a record number last year and we had a very low enrollment yield. So we won’t be satisfied with those numbers until they actually matriculate and come to fruition,” said Byrd, who added that campus tours have increased by five percent.
He explained that transfer numbers are down slightly this year, as the university’s top feeder school, St. Louis Community College, has also seen decreased enrollment numbers.
“We’re putting most of our hope this year in … the graduate school doing well and attracting more international students and students from outside of the state,” said Byrd.
According to the Spring 2017 Enrollment Report, the university aims to enroll 2,150 new undergraduates and 825 new graduate and professional students and increase total enrollment to 17,200 students in the upcoming fall semester.
Other goals of the spring enrollment report include maintaining an academic profile that includes an ACT score of 24 and a 3.3 GPA for first-time freshmen, increasing the average GPA to 3.0 for incoming transfer students, increasing the percentage of underrepresented minorities enrolled to 30 percent, and increasing the percentage of incoming international students to 5 percent.
Byrd said that the issue of declining enrollment is not specific to UMSL, but has been problematic for most colleges and universities in the region. “All of the schools in the region have declining enrollment because the population isn’t growing any … it’s a demographic thing,” he said.
The university is expecting about 1,200 prospective students for the upcoming UMSL Day in March, according to Byrd.
“We pretty much are at capacity for UMSL Day in terms of size … we were [at capacity] the last UMSL Day, and we’re on pace to do it again,” he said.
The newly expanded Metropolitan Rate Program, which gives all Illinois residents in-state tuition rates, was one recent effort to bring more students to UMSL. The university is hoping that the expansion will bring in approximately 100 new students. Students in the Metro Rate Program generated $4.6 million in tuition revenue in 2015-2016, according to the enrollment report.
The university has also expanded recruitment efforts to Midwest Exchange Program (MSEP) states, which include Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wisconsin. Students from those states pay 150 percent of the university’s in-state tuition instead of out-of-state rates, according to the enrollment report. UMSL began visiting high schools and community colleges in those states this semester.
Two new scholarships were also created in another effort to step up recruitment efforts. The Oak Hall Community Scholarship is a $3,500 merit scholarship awarded to students who have a 25 ACT score or 3.5 GPA who live over 30 miles from campus. The Regional Achievement Award is given to nonresident students who have a 24 ACT score and 3.5 GPA and come from MSEP states and bordering states of Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.