Total enrollment at MU remained steady this fall, but freshman enrollment increased 16%.
Freshman enrollment spiked from 4,696 in fall 2018 to 5,459 in fall 2019. Total enrollment saw a 1% increase from 29,407 in fall 2018 to 29,677 in fall 2019, said Liz McCune, associate director of the MU News Bureau.
At the same time, enrollment at Missouri State University, which has seen at least five years of steady growth, dropped by 4.6%.
When classes began Monday, 20,330 students were enrolled at the Missouri State University Springfield campus, according to a news release.
The 4.6% drop was attributed to a decrease in number of high school graduates and transfer students, as well as fewer continuing students after the largest class ever graduated in May.
Additionally, there was a decrease in number of hours required to graduate at MSU from 125 to 120.
McCune said contributing factors to the freshman enrollment increase at MU include new scholarship opportunities, reductions in the cost of dining and housing plans and new textbook initiatives that are more affordable.
“Last fall, we won our first Nobel Prize,” McCune said. “I feel like Mizzou just has a lot of momentum right now. We’re doing a good job of telling our story and attracting students. We’re seeing growth in faculty research. We’ve had a lot of good news to celebrate in the past year.”
MU’s retention rate, or the percentage of freshmen continuing their education at MU, is at 87.6% — “the highest it’s ever been,” McCune said.
“That (number) says that students are not only attracted to coming to school here, they’re staying,” she said. “It’s becoming home for them.”
MSU President Clif Smart said in a news release that the drop in overall enrollment wasn’t a surprise.
“We’ve been aware of the projected decline and have planned proactively. We continue to stay focused on long-term enrollment growth and on programs that increase access to high-demand fields,” he said.
In a blog post, Smart said the decline in enrollment may also lead to a $4 million to $5 million decrease in revenue.
”If we don’t change our strategies and move the needle, indicators project that we will likely face another enrollment decline in fall 2020,” Smart said in the post.
However, Smart said that can be prevented.
“The die is not firmly cast,” he said. “We still have time to double our efforts and implement new recruitment and retention strategies. It is critical that we all work together to prioritize enrollment in the coming academic year.”
To keep numbers high, McCune said the MU enrollment management team reviews a plan that determines how to recruit and attract students.
“Part of that discussion is what is the right size for this institution, and what is the infrastructure that is needed,” she said. “We know how students choose to learn is changing, and it could mean more online learners in the future. Our goal is to ensure that we are meeting the needs of our state and all our students who choose us.”
The official MU enrollment report is not available until after the fourth week of classes.
At MSU, late registration will continue through Aug. 23. The official MSU enrollment report is set to release Sept. 18.