MU colleges ramp up recruitment in wake of enrollment decline

Ten out of 11 undergraduate colleges at MU experienced drops in freshman enrollment for fall 2016.
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MU experienced a drop in freshman enrollment of 21.1 percent, or 1,605 students, between fall 2015 and fall 2016, according to the Fall 2016 Enrollment Summary Report. MU’s total undergraduate enrollment decreased by 6.9 percent, or 1,914 students.

The Enrollment Summary Report, which is produced for every fall semester by the University of Missouri-Columbia Division of Enrollment Management, breaks down enrollment by level, school or college, demographic, ethnicity and other factors.

This report uses the 20th day of classes as a census date, according to the Division of Enrollment Management website, and includes 489 more students than were enrolled at the beginning of the semester, according to an October university press release.

Data compiled from the 2015 and 2016 reports show that the School of Journalism experienced a drop in freshman enrollment of 30.79 percent, the largest percent decrease in freshman enrollment across all schools and colleges at MU.

“The events of November 2015 demonstrated that Missouri journalism students are prepared to handle a national story because the Missouri Method offers hands-on, professional opportunities in its seven newsrooms,” Dean of Journalism David Kurpius said in an email to Director of Admissions Chuck May. “The events, though, adversely affected our enrollment numbers because the School has the largest number of out-of-state students.”

In response to the drop in freshman enrollment, the School of Journalism has increased its focus on existing recruitment activities such as tours, communication with prospective students and families and recruiting trips around the country, Kurpius said in the email to May.

“We are finding ways to be more aggressive in our recruitment efforts and to engage alumni and others to help us attract great students,” Kurpius said in the email to May. “For example, a faculty team just returned from Texas where we hosted prospective students and high school journalism teachers at an alumni reception and visited some high school journalism programs.”

In contrast, the College of Education saw its freshman class grow by two students between fall 2015 and fall 2016. This change of 0.97 percent was the only increase in freshman enrollment for any school or college, according to the reports.

“We’re in the middle right now of a massive teacher shortage,” Dean of Education Kathryn Chval said. “We knew that this crisis was on the way and we established our Recruitment and Retention office.”

Over the past few years, the College of Education has introduced new recruitment strategies to increase communication with prospective students, such as sending personal videos of congratulations from Chval to admitted students and having current students send handwritten letters to admitted applicants from similar geographic locations.

“If we wouldn’t have had that [infrastructure] in place for several years, I do not think that we would have had the same result,” Chval said.

Though freshman enrollment for the College of Education grew, its total undergraduate enrollment dropped 11.03 percent, according to the enrollment summaries.

“I think the teacher shortage numbers are pretty scary,” Chval said. “I think we’ll have a significant drop [in undergraduate enrollment] in the College of Education [in the future].”

Reasons for the drop in enrollment include the fall 2015 protests, fewer high school seniors in Missouri and greater competition in MU’s main recruiting areas, according to previous Maneater reporting.

“It is always difficult to know why people make decisions, but there is evidence that the events over the last year and a half may have contributed to the decline in the freshman class,” Director of Admissions Chuck May said in an email. “It is difficult to know why individual schools or colleges fluctuate enrollment.”

New efforts by the Office of Admissions to increase freshman enrollment include an online virtual tour, admissions website and brochures targeted at high school seniors, May said in the email.

MU also partnered with the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation to offer five full-ride scholarships, according to a university press release.

“If the Stamps leadership scholarships at Mizzou follow the pattern found at other partner schools, the university should see an increase in high-performing, engaged student enrollment over the next few years,” May said in the email.

Of the schools and colleges that had lower freshman enrollment rates in fall 2016 than fall 2015, the College of Human Environmental Sciences underwent the smallest change, a decrease of 9.36 percent. It was the only school or college to experience an increase in total undergraduate enrollment, according to the enrollment summaries.

The College of Arts and Science had 644 less freshman and 703 less total undergraduate students in fall 2016 than in fall 2015. That represents a 25.05 percent drop in freshman enrollment, contributing to the college’s total undergraduate enrollment drop of 8.56 percent.

While the Sinclair School of Nursing underwent a decrease in freshman enrollment of 15.13 percent, its total undergraduate enrollment only decreased by 0.54 percent, or six students.

“We need to come together as a community to attract students to Mizzou,” May said in the email. “We appreciate that when our current Mizzou students go back home, they talk positively about their Mizzou experience. Current students are always our best recruiters of new students.”

Edited by Kyle LaHucik |

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