Enrollment projected to continue decline next semester

Truman State University is projecting low enrollment numbers for the 2020-21 school year, continuing a downward trend for enrollment.  

Enrollment has seen a near continuous drop over the past five years for both full-time and part-time students. 

Tyana Lange, vice president for enrollment management and marketing, said the University is hoping to receive 925 new full-time freshman students. The original goal for the fall semester was 1,075. 

“I’m not confident we’re going to make that,” Lange said. “I’m optimistic and doing everything we can to push to that, but somewhere around that 900 number — 925 number — is what we’re looking at for incoming students.”

The amount of full-time, first-time freshman for the 2019-20 school year was 899. Lange said she hopes to stay steady around 900 students and hopefully surpass it. 

Lange said she hopes the lower budget and enrollment numbers are not noticeable by the student body. She also said she wants the faculty to continue teaching the same classes in the same quantity as the current year. 

Lange said many initiatives are being put in place to help with enrollment. Most of these are focused on the high school class of 2021. Events for accepted students are seeking to have a high yield percentage, which is the amount of admitted students who decide to attend Truman. 

One of the biggest events is the Pershing scholarship process, the highest and most competitive scholarship offered at the University. The process used to consist of individual interviews over the course of one day. Lange said this was changed to a three day event, where 76 students stayed on campus, were interviewed and met with faculty.

“The hope was that any student who wasn’t offered a Pershing would still fall so in love with Truman they would want to come here,” Lange said.

Lange said that a high yield of students can keep numbers steady, even if enrollment numbers are down.   

Enrollment is one of the University’s main sources of income, with state funding being one of the other main ways for the University to get income.

The low projections will negatively impact the budget for next year. Dave Rector, vice president for administration, finance and planning, said the University will lose roughly $1.2 million next year from enrollment numbers being down. He said the other budget concerns and payments result in roughly $1.7 million in total being lost for next year.

Rector said a committee of faculty has been formed to look at ways to reduce costs on the academic side. He said a very large portion of the school budget goes toward academics, including hiring faculty and purchasing new books for the library. 

“Since about 2001, it’s been this roller coaster,” Rector said. “Ups and downs and ups and downs. We’ve been through it lots of times”

Director of Admissions Tara Hart is enacting several initiatives to try to boost enrollment. Accepted student videos were piloted this year, where current students film videos to let potential freshmen know they were accepted into Truman.

Home for the Holidays lets students talk in their previous high schools about Truman from the perspective of a student. Hart said she wants to show prospective students that Truman can be fun in addition to its education programs. 

Hart said she hopes to have enrollment numbers stay the same or increase slightly. Some students enroll during the spring semester, with 37 new students doing so this year.. Hart said the main bulk of applicants are freshmen, but they always get transfer students.

“I wanna say that last year we had a little bit over 120-130 transfer students, and that’s around our goal this year,” Hart said.

Last August, Jonathan Vieker was the first person appointed to the new role of director of retention. Vieker said his job is about looking for ways to remove barriers to allow for student success. 

Vieker said he makes a lot of smaller tweaks to improve the overall student experience. An example he gave was pushing the date of final drops for classes back two weeks to the 12th week of the semester. This change resulted in a 44% decrease in the number of students who requested a drop after the 12th week. Vieker said he also does a lot of one-on-one work with students.

Although enrollment numbers are projected to be down again, the retention numbers for freshmen are very high according to fall enrollment trends from 2015 to 2019. Fall 2018 to spring 2019 saw a retention rate of 94.4%, with fall 2019 to spring 2020 having a 95.5% rate. These numbers are up from 83.5% in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school year.