Enrollment drop at MU may be sign of things to come

Universities nationwide are experiencing a decrease in enrollment of incoming freshmen, which is causing students to experience a recruitment effort like never before.

The University of Missouri is no exception. This is the first year since 1994 that the newest Southeastern Conference addition has not witnessed record-breaking enrollment, according to a St. Louis Post Dispatch story on a study of the shrinking pool of students.

“Demographics are changing nationwide,” said CeCe Leslie, College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources director of student recruitment at the University of Missouri. “High school numbers are dipping and will for several years in many states.”

Leslie said through the years MU scholarship dollars have not kept pace with tuition increases. Since joining the SEC, Missouri high school students have experienced various aggressive recruiting efforts from fellow SEC schools pulling prospective students further south, she said.

In addition, as the U.S. economy begins to take a turn for the better, pressure is relieved from the upcoming workforce, Jan Dauve, MU professor of agricultural economics, told his applied microeconomics class. When jobs were tight, students felt a heavy push to receive a college degree in order to remain a competitive asset. Now as the turmoil has simmered down, more young men and women are finding they can begin making an acceptable salary without receiving higher education, he said.

Schools have been pushed to expand their targeted recruitment audiences nationwide in an effort to make up for the gap in enrollment, Leslie said.

“Mizzou is getting very aggressive with recruitment efforts, reaching out for a more national audience,” she said. “But so is just about every other major research institution too.”

At the heart of the issue lies something much deeper, speculates Ann Korschgen, MU’s vice provost for enrollment management.

“It’s become a significant issue because state governments are providing less and less funding to public higher education while costs of operation are rising,” Korschgen said. “Given that, many institutions have decided to go out of state to recruit students who would pay non-resident fees to generate more tuition revenue.”

But there still may be a glimmer of hope as Leslie concluded that regardless of the downslide similar trends have happened in the past and have appeared to only be a phase.

“We’ll have to see what happens in the near future,” she said.

Betty Thomas

About the Author Betty Thomas

Agriculture began to influence my life at a young age. My father is a sixth-generation farmer, so it only seems right to pass on the tradition. I’m from a small, rural community where a large portion of the local economy is centered around agriculture. I was born and raised on a farm outside of Oakford, Ill., and wouldn’t have had it any other way. A friend took a college visit to the University of Missouri one weekend, and I decided to tag along. I immediately fell in love with the hospitality and beauty of the campus. With such a strong agricultural school and journalism school it seemed to be the perfect fit. Looking back there is no place I would rather call home.