Freshman enrollment at the University of Missouri has increased 13.1 percent over 2017, with 5,695 new students now attending.
This increase makes university officials feel optimistic for a return to normal or even record high numbers after experiencing two years of rapid decline in 2016 and 2017. This is not just coincidence, however. The MU enrollment staff has been hard at work developing ways to increase student numbers.
MU is the largest university in the state but enrollment began declining in 2016. Some say it was the result of the student-led protests that occurred in 2015 in response to accusations of racism on campus. The widespread negative media coverage of the protests is blamed for the rapid decline of incoming freshman.
The 2017 freshman class accounted for only 5,065 students, which is 2,534 less than the freshman class of 2015, who enrolled prior to the start of the protests. The 2018 freshman class is the first increase in student enrollment since the protests. Overall, enrollment is still down 4 percent, but these increasing numbers predict that student levels will return to normal in the next couple of years.
“We will probably have one more year of overall decline and then trend upward again,” said Kim Humphrey, interim vice provost for Enrollment Management. “According to the chancellor’s strategic plan, we are hoping to grow our freshman and new transfer numbers to 6,000 by 2023, we are likely to hit that well before then.”
The increase in enrollment is the result of several initiatives by the university to boost incentives for coming to MU. Many of these include scholarship incentives. The Border State Scholarship awards $2,500 to any student coming to the university from one of Missouri’s eight border states. Another is the Missouri Land Grant Compact, which covers the difference between what a student receives in financial aid and the actual cost of attendance for in-state residents. Other cost-effective incentives include new ROTC scholarships, reduced cost for housing and dining plans, and cheaper textbook initiatives.
MU’s recruitment team has also been hard at work to increase the number of students. They visited over 600 Missouri high schools, 450 college fairs nationwide, and hosted more than 20 counselor events. Last academic year, MU admissions representatives visited every public high school in the state
There are also efforts to improve the university’s reputation through marketing.
“We have been working with One Sixty Over Ninety on a branding campaign and they have done a lot to increase enrollment and sentiment among state residents and alumni,” Humphrey said.
Bus wraps, building wraps, billboards, and digital ads containing the slogan “Show Me” can now be seen in cities such as St. Louis, Chicago, Kansas City, Springfield Dallas, and Houston. These are meant to improve relations with Missouri residents and alumni by showing the positive impact MU, alumni have had on their community. The goal is that the improved sentiments and reputation will encourage more individuals to look at MU and for more parents and alums to want to send their children to the university.
MU also introduced the Common Application as a new, easier way for students to apply. The Common Application includes hundreds of universities nationwide and acts as a one-time application for students looking at a number of different schools. This made it easier for students to apply to MU, and may have aided in increasing enrollment.
Recently, the university announced free parking as an incentive to second, third, or fourth year students that wish to live in dorms. Through this initiative, they hope to increase students living in campus residence halls, as well as provide a cost benefit for students who do decide to stay.
“I definitely think [the setback in enrollment will benefit MU overall],” said Humphrey. “I see a much stronger student focus than I have ever seen since I have been here. There is such a willingness for departments to work together. It is already stronger than it has ever been.”