College enrollment numbers dropping nationally, while local institutions see increase
MARYLAND – Nationally, college enrollment numbers are dropping. But it’s a different story locally, according to Salisbury University (SU) and University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) admissions officials.
COVID-19 and College
The COVID-19 pandemic posed many challenges to college hopefuls. For the higher education institutions those prospective students had their eyes on, it was no different. “The pandemic has really presented some challenges for higher education. Nationally, we are seeing parents and prospective students still facing some medical and financial uncertainty,” said UMES Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Experience, Latoya Jenkins.
Across county lines, SU Director of Admissions, Beth Skoglund, says it was a similar situation. “In 2019 we had our largest class ever. The next two years were the pandemic. We definitely saw the impact on some students either not wanting to go to school, or not sure what it was going to look like,” she said. “Instead of having classes in person, they were going to have virtual classes.”
Numbers Back on the Climb
As the COVID-19 pandemic began to ease up, enrollment numbers began to climb again. “UMES continues to see gains in our application numbers. Three years ago, pre-pandemic, we did a national strategy to put us on the National College Application platform, in addition to the Black Common College Application platform,” said Jenkins. “Two years ago, we saw an increase of 50% in our applications, and we continue to see strides in high number of applications that bring us higher than pre-pandemic levels.”
Jenkins credits UMES’ “flexibility and modality” for those climbing numbers. She says the university has been ramping up on-campus services to address new needs brought about by the pandemic. “One of the things we have seen nationally, is that while students continue to take courses online or via Zoom during the pandemic in K-12 spaces, some of those gaps in college level learning have enhanced,” said Jenkins. “We have enhanced our summer bridge program to offer students the opportunity to come in throughout the summer for college level preparation, time management skills, how to acclimate to the college environment.”
At SU, Skoglund says the university is also working to accommodate the shifting educational environment. “It still, I think, was difficult for students. So, we definitely had a little bit of an impact from that, and I feel like we’re certainly bouncing back,” she said. “We’re really committed to being the institution that we are. We know that we have great resources and opportunities for students. Being on campus, I think, is the best fit.”
“The time is now.”
Both SU and UMES are still accepting applications, according to Skoglund and Jenkins. Students wanting to apply to UMES have until June 30th. While SU’s deadline was back on May 1st, the school is still accepting applications until they run out of spots.
“The time is now. UMES is ready for you. We are here to answer your questions, to make sure you that you make the leap to a higher education,” said Jenkins. “However, if the University of Maryland Eastern Shore is not your top choice, try any school that is of interest to you. The community colleges in the area also offer great opportunities for higher education.”
Skoglund also encourages prospective students to consider SU for their college experience. “Please, feel free to go to the website and fill out that application, and to submit your documents,” she said.