Overall fall enrollment fell by 170 students, much of that attributed by university officials to a sharp decline in the total number of graduate students. In addition, freshmen enrollment fell by about 12 percent year-to-year, the largest decline in more than 20 years, according to 12th-day numbers released by the university this week.
Despite the decline in total freshmen, overall undergraduate enrollment showed a year-to-year decline of about 1 percent, or close to 30 students.
The 864 freshmen students combine with 150 transfer students to make just more than 1,000 new students on campus this school year. The total number of freshmen is down by 118, or 12 percent, a statistic chief financial officer Kelly Young attributed to three main factors – increased tuition, economic troubles and changes in recruiting techniques.
“Tuition rose before this school year, which was a definite influence on the smaller enrollment,” said Young. “Also, the economy is causing many potential students to not be able to afford any private schools and instead opt for public or community colleges, and we’ve had to change our marketing strategies to high school students.”
Young said that the university isn’t worried about the decrease in incoming students, though, because university success isn’t based on enrollment alone.
“We’re focusing on more highly-qualified students who are more likely to stay all four years,” he said. “We’re improving as a quality institution of learning.”
ACT scoresÂ of the freshman classÂ remained solid. An average score of 24.6 is the second-highest in school history after last year’s freshman class, said Kevin Campbell, director of enrollment marketing.
“We’ve maintained our quality standards of the student body,” he said. “A score of 24 on the ACT is in the top 25 percent of all college students in the nation. The average ACU student is in about the top 20 percent of the country.”
The university’s marketing relationship with high school students changed at the beginning of last school year with new management.
“We’ve begun communicating with high school students much earlier,” Campbell said. “We’ll be in contact with students in their sophomore or junior years, and in some cases as early as their freshman year. We’re going to see the results from that by as early as next school year.”
The graduate program had 922 students enrolled last school year. This year, a 14 percent drop in graduate students brings the total number down to 793. Kelly said that the university hasn’t figured out the main reasons for the dramatic drop off.
“We just sat down in a meeting Wednesday to discuss the numbers,” he said. “We’d been anticipating the smaller freshmen enrollment since late spring, but we’re still in the process of determining the direct cause of the smaller numbers in the graduate program.”