Colleges and universities work on getting enrollment numbers back up
DELMARVA – As colleges and universities help students come out of the pandemic, a challenge they’re still facing, is college enrollment numbers. “Our trend has mirrored the national trend and the Maryland trend and has been down,” says Bryan Newton, Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Services at Wor-Wic Community college.
According to enrollment officials at local universities, the decline goes hand in hand with high schools students heading straight to the workforce, following graduation. “Enrollment numbers usually mirror unemployment numbers and track pretty close to them in 2020 unemployment went way up like 10%, but enrollment went way down 10%,” says Newton.
Tepid enrollment numbers can be seen both at community colleges like Wor-Wic, and larger universities like Salisbury University. However, SU officials say as they address the challenge, they’re finding some silver linings. “I think in a good way, it forced families to look at what is the net price of their education,” says Allen Koehler, Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Management at SU. He adds, “The colleges that are going to succeed are the ones that can explain their financial aid package and explain their value and I think here at SU we’re well-positioned to do that.”
Koehler tells us, there were a lot of lessons learned during the pandemic amid the challenge of enrollment. “Student demands, student desire on how they receive their coursework meaning the modality that it’s offered. We’ve seen more students want online course work and things like that.” He says the universities ability to get kids back on campus truly helped them. “I think because our ability to shift back to an in-person environment has helped us navigate those waters.”
However, not all local colleges are feeling the pinch, up at Delaware State University, we’re told their numbers are on the rise. “Many of our colleagues can’t say what we are saying here but again we’ve been really strategic and real thoughtful around not only how and what but all of the who’s,” says Antonio Boyle, Senior Vice President of the Division of Strategic Enrollment Management and Student Affairs at DSU.
Boyle says they’ve had consistent growth over the past few years and that’s because of the many partnerships they’ve created outside of DSU, and their transparency with recruiting students. “You have at the same time growth of enrollment, increased retention, increased graduation, we’re checking those boxes,” says Boyle.
While enrollment may be lagging for some local colleges, their leaders are optimistic that things will get back on track in the coming fall. “It’s really important that they get back to school and I think we’re here, we’re ready to help, we’re ready to help them transition through a rocky time,” says Newton. Koehler adds, “However, we are extremely optimistic going into this fall Our numbers are up in almost every category 06 so we’re excited to welcome back a stronger class and one of our largest ones we’ve seen.”
Koehler also says he sees the demographics of every college and university shifting over the next few years as well as a decline in high school graduation rates.
Newton also tells us, the increased use of technology over the past two years could also be a reason why first-generation students shy away from continuing their education.
Enrollment periods are open at all three institutions.