Wed. Nov 20th, 2019

Statewide college enrollment takes a dive

After decades of phenomenal growth, Utah’s college enrollment may be stagnant over the next decade. This not only affects Utah’s four universities but also the two four-year colleges and the three two-year colleges.
Last year the University of Utah and Snow College were the two colleges to experience growth. The U of U saw a 1.2% growth and Snow saw a 2.8 percent growth. All other schools saw decreases.
College of Eastern Utah saw a –11.3 percent decrease with Utah Valley State College showing a –10 percent decrease.

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After decades of phenomenal growth, Utah’s college enrollment may be stagnant over the next decade. This not only affects Utah’s four universities but also the two four-year colleges and the three two-year colleges.
Last year the University of Utah and Snow College were the two colleges to experience growth. The U of U saw a 1.2% growth and Snow saw a 2.8 percent growth. All other schools saw decreases.
College of Eastern Utah saw a –11.3 percent decrease with Utah Valley State College showing a –10 percent decrease.
According to CEU’s institutional research coordinator, Kim Booth, day five of fall semester 2006 at CEU show another 13 percent drop in enrollment from day five in 2005. Preliminary head count is 1,336 this year compared to 1,534 in 2005.
In his opening day remarks to the CEU community, President Ryan Thomas explained that Carbon and Emery counties have lost 20-30 percent of their K-12 enrollment. Compare Southeastern Utah’s enrollment to the rest of the state who have gained 20-30 percent enrollment.
“The participation percentage locally has not declined … just our population base,” Thomas explained.
Another disturbing statistic statewide is the amount of college-age students opting not to go to college. In the traditional 18-26 year old age gap, nationally 43 percent attend college. Utah used to be one of the most educated states with 45 percent of its high school students opting to attend college a decade ago. It has dropped to 36 percent of high school students attending higher education institutions after high school, Thomas continued.
In the July Board of Regents meeting, the Commissioner of Higher Education presented long-term enrollment scenarios for Utah’s 10 public colleges and universities as the state prepares for projected enrollment declines.
The Regents requested $405 million in additional funds from the state and student tuition over the next five years. This will involve statewide efforts to recruit more women and minority students. If the plan works, college enrollment is hoped to grow among 18- to 29-year-olds by 0.2 percent in 2007 and 0.5 percent in 2008. Regents expect an annual increase in growth to 0.7 percent by 2017 if their plan is approved.
The Deseret News quoted Richard Kendell, Utah commissioner of higher education, in his remarks on the importance of higher education. “There’s never been a time when higher education is more important, yet we have fewer people participating. For most people, a high school education is not going to help them be a self-sustaining adult.”
Kendell hopes to look at minority enrollments as an opportunity to help enrollments.
Retention is another issue colleges are paying attention to in hopes of keeping their enrollment. CEU advising office interviewed 40 students who withdrew from campus fall 2005.Employment was the biggest factor in students withdrawing from classes with ll students leaving CEU, followed by nine who cited financial and moving as their reason behind dropping out of classes. Seven students cited personal reasons, four family related, two school related, two cited transportation problems and one cited church/military as their reason for dropping out of school. Two did not cite a reason for dropping all their classes.
Some of their comments on their withdrawl surveys cited moving to California, getting divorced, needing a job to support family, frustrated with financial aid, need to save money, could not pass up full-time employment, attending another school, not happy here (housing and food services), playing baseball at SLCC, mother is ill and daughter was injured.
In hoping to reverse the enrollment decline, CEU is organizing an institutional perception committee who plan to create a new marketing concept to attract more students from the Wasatch Front.
Brad King, vice president of institutional advancement, plans to work with the institutional perception committee to talk about changes to CEU’s image and marketing strategies. “We will be inviting requests for proposal from public relations and marketing firms for a serious look at the way that we are perceived by prospective students, parents and the public. We have just updated our materials for prospective students and are refining our strategies for the High School Tour and are looking into what changes we can make with our new home page and web site with our new web master to increase its effectiveness as a marketing tool.”
Terry Johnson, admission’s office counselor adds, before the annual high school tour, he plans to send a viewbook to each high school student indicating that CEU will be coming to their high school to visit them about Eastern Utah. “In addition, we are going to target select schools by sending out a personalized letter to each senior in an attempt to determine if a letter, instead of information material about Eastern Utah would be more successful in drawing students into our sessions. We are also developing ideas about sending a quick-summary viewbook to the parents of each high school senior.
“Also, this year, we have brought on board a few more Ambassadors to help with some personalizing of our contacts with the high schools. Each Ambassador has been assigned 5 – 6 high schools, where they may have a connection, to be directly responsible for. So as we go out on tour, not only will we have a presenter for each session, but a current student who many of the seniors will probably know and respect. The Ambassadors are excited and many are already contacting their respective high schools and talking Eastern Utah up.
“As far as the actual presentation goes, we are going to not only talk up what Eastern Utah has to offer, but how what we have to offer will benefit them now and well into the future. We’ve learned that most high school seniors seem to be more interested in specific programs rather than the college as a whole. So any exciting or success-related information that our different departments share with us is wonderful. For example, the recent success of our RN students achieving a 100% pass rate on their exams is so beneficial when we visit with students.
“All the colleges and universities will tout that they have a “great such-and-such program”, but when we can give specifics to back up that we really do have wonderful programs, the students find the claims more credible and become more interested. So any information that the departments can share with me before the September 6 that will substantiate their programs will be of great help as we start the tour. As far as that goes, any information that comes in throughout the year will be beneficial; it’s just that we start our two-month high school tour on the September 7,” Johnson said.
The director of admissions and scholarships, Todd Olsen, added, “I would call our efforts for the coming year as enhancing our consistency amid change. We will be participating in the Utah High School Tour, visiting with Utah high school seniors, meeting with high school counselors and updating our materials in all counseling centers in the state. We are mailing our new viewbook, which includes application for admission and scholarship to all seniors in the state. Those who are on our recruitment mailing lists as this time will receive personal invitations to attend the tour and meet with our representatives. The Ambassadors also make phone calls to those we have phone numbers for.
“I will be sending out the Utah High School Tour calendar and would encourage everyone to contact their peers and family members throughout the state and invite them to tell people to attend our sessions, get our information and meet our representatives.
“Last year we also initiated and will continue with maintaining contact with prospective students through e-mail. Although many prefer this means of communication, it seems direct mail and phone are still the best ways to contact them.
“The college has also announced a ‘Back to College’ plan where non-traditional students who have been out of college for 3 years or more and have 20 or less hours left to complete their degree can return under a grant assistance incentive. Stay tuned for more on this program.
“Although the office of admissions and scholarships primary responsibilities include recruitment, our messages tend to be more in the nature of general information when first contacting prospective students. Every office, every department, every employee of the college shares in the responsibility of telling our stories, selling ourselves, our departments and services to prospective and current students. I hope all people and departments on campus are recruiting and doing all we can to bring students to our campus.
“Several new faculty members have contacted me about how they can get involved in the recruitment efforts. Also, I know the faculty have plans for some night programs at high schools to promote their programs and sell the school,” Olsen said.

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