(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Missouri Western State University (MWSU) has projected a slight decrease in overall enrollment for the fall 2019 semester.
Vice Provost for Enrollment Management at Western Paul Orscheln said he's expecting a roughly three and a half percent decline in overall enrollment and a nine percent decline in the freshmen class. Though he added the numbers follow four previous years of ups and downs.
"Over the last two years, we've been up 22 percent in the freshmen class. So, yes we are seeing a decline but again we're well ahead of where we were at in 2015/2016," Orscheln said.
He mentioned the university strives to bring in at least 1,000 freshmen students every year. Western reached that goal in 2017 and 2018, but only saw about 850 first-year students in 2015 and 2016.
There could be various reasons for the slight decrease this fall, but Orscheln said a lot of it is due to the lessening number of high school students looking to obtain a degree from a university.
"Fewer high school students in the market is truly what's driving enrollment here," Orscheln said. "If you look at all the other regional public institutions that are in the state, all of them, but I think maybe one, are seeing declines in the freshmen class in the double digits."
He said more students are not opting to take the ACt test during their junior and even senior years of high school, and that a larger number of students are joining the workforce right after graduation.
"Anytime the economy is growing or is in good shape, we do see a lot of individuals either going back to the workforce or staying in the workforce instead of going to college," Orscheln said.
However, not all of the university's enrollment numbers are pointing downward. Orscheln said as of August 26, the first day of Western fall 2019 classes, the postgraduate enrollment numbers spiked by four percent. Retention numbers also went up, increasing by about one percent.
"Attracting students to the institution is obviously always going to be a priority, but keeping them here and making sure they graduate I think is really where you are going to see a lot of our institutional initiatives had to make sure students that we do bring to our campus are successful students," Orscheln said.
Northwest Missouri State University also released their first-day enrollment numbers for fall 2019. In a press release, the university reported a two percent overall enrollment increase.
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However, NWMSU also reported a decrease in their freshmen class as well. They saw a roughly two percent decrease in first-year students than last year.