Universities prepare for fewer state high school graduates

Wednesday, February 27, 2008 | 5:44 p.m. CST; updated 3:21 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

This article has been corrected since the original version was posted last week. The original story said that MU and other universities are anticipating a drop in enrollment in the next few years. MU is anticipating a drop, but school officials are trying to mitigate the drop and anticipate a steady state enrollment pattern.

COLUMBIA — MU and other state universities are preparing for a drop in the number of Missouri high school graduates by the year 2011.

The drop is anticipated to last for four or five years. The decline means universities will have to ramp up their recruitment efforts.

Ann Korschgen, vice provost of enrollment management at MU, said the drop is predicted because school enrollment data show that there are 11 percent fewer eighth-graders than high school seniors in the state. Information gathered by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education also predicts an abrupt decline in high school graduates — 5 percent to 10 percent — in states surrounding Missouri.

The main factor, according to John Blodgett, senior analyst with the Office of Social and Economic Data Analysis at MU, is basic population trends. The wave in population caused by the baby boom — people born after World War II — resulted in an “echo boom” when baby boomers were of child-bearing age.

Between the two spikes, there were busts — a time with relatively low activity. There must have been a small bust during the mid-1990s, which would result in a decline of Missouri high school graduates, Blodgett said.

“There were just less women between 18 and 44 who were of child-bearing age during this time,” Blodgett said, adding that birth rates are closely correlated with the number of females in specific age groups.

Korschgen said the reason for the decline is a decrease in birthrates from 1992 to 1996 in the state of Missouri.

Bill Elder, director of OSEDA said, “The population decline is also caused by the demographic age shift due to migration.”

Missouri is growing modestly, opposed to other states that are affected by migration, such as Texas and the southwest, Elder said. When Missouri is compared to states with higher immigration rates, a relative decline can be seen.

Colleges and universities around Missouri are aware of the predicted drop and are planning different strategies to soften the impact of the decline for their specific institution.

At MU, a committee has been formed to draw up strategies to mitigate the decline. Although no decisions have been made, some ideas discussed at a recent faculty council meeting include recruiting more students from out of state, attracting more transfer students and strengthening relationships with local community colleges.

Gina Morin, associate vice president of enrollment management at Truman State University, said, “We need to build up the pipeline of students going to college more strategically by going into middle school and junior highs.

“The next step is to help children to learn more and be prepared for what they are going to do after 12th grade,” Morin said.

Northwest Missouri State plans on early outreach education of middle-school students as well. However, they also plan to do more recruiting out of state, according to Jeremy Waldeier, Northwest Missouri State University’s associate director of admissions.

“We are planning to go to Illinois where the population is actually increasing and also in Texas,” Waldeier said. “We will do this by high school visits, counselor visits, college fairs and utilizing our Web-based tools.”

The expected drop comes at a time when enrollments at MU have been soaring. The enrollment of first-time college students for fall 2008 is anticipated to increase 3 to 3.5 percent, Korschgen said.

MU administrators are optimistic, and Korschgen said, “We don’t anticipate (the drop) having any immediate impact upon tuition costs and scholarships.”

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