Enrollment falls for the fourth year in a row

Truman State University’s enrollment continues to be down for the fall 2020 semester during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The amount of first-time, full-time freshmen decreased from fall 2019 by 171 students. There are 727 new freshmen for the fall 2020 semester. The total enrollment is 4,655 students for the 2020 fall semester.

The amount of new freshmen is used by the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System to establish various statistics important to Truman, such as retention rate and graduation rate.

Tyana Lange, vice president for enrollment management and marketing, said she is not surprised by the decrease in students. 

“Best guess nationally was everybody expected numbers to be down 15 to 20%, so we’re in the range anticipated,” Lange said. “[It is] not surprising where the number ended up.”

Lange explained that COVID-19 worsened the decline, which has prompted new enrollment initiatives. One new initiative for freshmen is ensuring they keep their scholarships for the fall 2021 semester. If a new freshman was accepted to Truman with a scholarship, their scholarship would remain until next year if the student decides to not attend this academic year. 

Another initiative is allowing new freshmen and current students to use their scholarships to cover tuition costs if they are not a full-time student. If a student is not comfortable coming back to campus and does not have 12 credit hours, they can use 50% of their scholarship to cover their fees.

While enrollment continues to decrease, the retention rate saw an increase this semester. Truman’s retention rate has increased 6% from last semester. The past two years have had a freshmen retention rate of 82.5%, but fall 2020 has a retention rate of 88.5%. 

“The hope is all that [retention rate] continues from fall to spring,” Lange said. “We can have a five to 10% decline between semesters, but have to remember that 300 to 500 students graduate in the spring semester and we don’t have a huge push to bring in new students in spring semester,” Lange said.

Janet Gooch, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, said it was difficult to predict what enrollment would be this semester. She said she thought a decline in enrollment was expected given the pandemic, but it was hard to predict the amount.

“Enrollment is not just about attracting new students but retaining students that are already enrolled,” Gooch said. “The pandemic affected all students, making it more difficult to predict enrollment for fall 2020.”

Gooch said she thinks  many factors related to the pandemic made it difficult for students to continue or start college. The pandemic also strongly impacted international students, as some were unable to return for the fall semester.

Gooch said it is tough to know what to expect in the future, but Truman has a strong recruitment and enrollment plan that is frequently examined to improve enrollment and recruitment techniques.

“We are an institution that believes deeply in our mission and a community that cares about our future,” Gooch said. “With that in mind, I’m positive that Truman will continue to thrive.”