MU hopes to combat application decline with new strategies

MU spokesman Christian Basi: “We would be remiss in not saying this fall had an impact. We’re being really open and answering any questions parents and students might have (about campus climate).”

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After a decline in applications for the 2016-17 school year among prospective students, MU is working to increase enrollment numbers with a number of new strategies.

MU is planning an increase of yield activities this spring to help boost enrollment deposits, according to a Jan. 4 memo from the Office of the Vice Provost for Enrollment Management. MU spokesman Christian Basi said such activities include having a presence at college fairs at high schools and sending out new mailings and emails.

“For the first time, our college recruiters are bringing faculty and current students with them to give (prospective students) an idea of what it’s like to be on campus,” Basi said.

The idea is to establish a personal connection between current students and prospective students; this can include sending current students to their hometown or having them talk to prospective students of the same major, Basi said. Additionally, current students are calling prospective students to answer questions they might have.

“Parents and students don’t necessarily want to hear from college recruiters — they want to hear from someone on campus,” Basi said.

Freshman applications to MU have decreased by 941 compared to this time last year, according to the memo authored by Barbara Rupp, interim vice provost for enrollment management, and Director of Admissions Chuck May. MU has received 18,377 applications so far, compared to 19,318 last year.

Basi said the drop in applications has not come as a surprise.

“We’ve actually anticipated this decline for several years,” Basi said.

Overall, Basi said enrollment is up, but this year’s freshman class was smaller than last year’s. The 2015-16 freshman class has 6,191 students, while the 2014-15 freshman class had 6,515 students.

Basi said there are a few reasons for the decline in applications. Eighteen years ago, there were fewer children being born than in past years, which is leading to fewer high school graduates. Additionally, after joining the Southeastern Conference, MU has experienced increased competition from other SEC schools during the admissions cycle. There has also been a declining number of high school students from feeder states such as Illinois and Kansas.

Last semester’s events also had an impact, Basi said, though there is no data to prove it.

“We would be remiss in not saying this fall had an impact,” Basi said. “We’re being really open and answering any questions parents and students might have (about campus climate).”

The decrease comes entirely from non-residents, according to the memo. Illinois applications make up for half of the decrease, with 432 fewer applicants, while applications from Texas have increased by 38. Resident applications have increased 21 compared to this time last year.

According to the January application statistics report, MU has had an increase in applications from 12 states this admissions cycle. The other 38 states have experienced either a decrease or equal number of applications compared to last year.

There has also been a 16 percent decrease in enrollment deposits.

“Deposits are down 383, which is a significant decrease, though at this time of year we are typically only sitting on about one-third of our deposits,” the memo reads. “They will start to come in greater volume once students receive information about orientation and about residential life, which will occur near the end of this month.”

Of the 383 fewer deposits, 79 come from black students. 137 come from residents and 249 come from non-residents. 184 of the 249 non-resident deposit decrease comes from Illinois.

Basi said it is difficult to anticipate the ramifications of decreased enrollment until the enrollment total is finalized. He said MU won’t officially know the enrollment numbers until the first day of the fall semester, but they will be monitoring the numbers closely until then. The impact will depend on a variety of factors, such as which majors experience a decrease in enrollment.

There has also been a decrease among transfer, international and minority applications.

Transfer applications have dropped by 94 and international applications have decreased by 6. Black applications have decreased by 78 from last year and Hispanic applications have decreased by one. Applications from high-ability students, which is determined by an ACT score of 30 or higher, have decreased by 235.

There has been a 19 percent decrease in graduate applications, with 354 fewer applications compared to last year.

Terrence Grus, director of graduate admissions and student services, said that because graduate programs do not have a deposit like the undergraduate program does, it is difficult to predict what the enrollment numbers will look like.

“We really don’t know what a class is going to look like until the census date, which is 20 days into school,” Grus said. “We don’t know how many of our internationals are going to be able to get visas and actually get here and how many students who said they are coming are going to come.”

Grus said that while they have no way of knowing the exact reasons for graduate applications declining, there is a trend.

“Historically, graduate enrollment has followed the economy,” Grus said. “When the economy is doing very well, people tend not to enroll in graduate programs. They tend not to continue their education and vice versa. When the economy is doing really poorly, if you look at our numbers from 2008 to 2009 when the economy crashed, graduate enrollment really started spiking.”

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