December 7, 2023

Two decades of enrollment decreases


This archived article was written by: Nathaniel Woodward

In its history, Utah State University Eastern, formerly College of Eastern Utah, the campus enrollment grew and shrunk in rhythm with other comparable schools in the state until in recent years as enrollment began to steadily decrease. The Eagle staff spent several weeks compiling and comparing published enrollment numbers from the past 20 years and will present its findings in a series of articles dealing with the who, the what and the why of the issue.
The Utah System of Higher Education publishes a yearly enrollment report of the eight colleges and universities. The yearly reports show the fluctuation of enrollment over the past 20 years. In 1997 headcount enrollment at the College of Eastern Utah in Price was 3,564 students compared with 1,456 in 2016. The trend is similar when taking the Blanding campus into consideration as well. Since the merger of CEU with USU Eastern in 2010, enrollment has seen a decrease from 880 to 472 students in six years.
The new president of Utah State University, Dr. Noelle Cockett, spoke in December with The Eagle and explained that with the newer technologies of broadcasting courses, both live and especially online, it would be difficult to place any blame as to why this drop has occurred. The Eagle staff conducted several interviews with high school-age students to help determine if their choices as to what to do after high school could give light to the drop in enrollment. It should be noted that only current high school students were interviewed and their answers cannot represent past generations.
According to students who chose other universities comparable to USU Eastern, i.e. Snow College, Westminster, Salt Lake Community and Dixie State University, the most common answer was they wanted to strike out on their own, something not possible if attending a local university. The second most common answer was the ability to complete a degree in their desired field which they felt they either could not or were not aware they could complete at USU Eastern. Many degrees they wanted included dental hygiene, biology, chemistry, electrical engineering and foreign languages. From a brief survey of Carbon High School students, one half planned on attending USU Eastern, one fourth planned on attending college elsewhere and the remaining one fourth either did not plan on attending college or had not yet decided. However of the same amount of Emery High School students questioned, only one fifth planned on attending USU Eastern, two-fifths planned on attending Snow College and the remaining two fifths either did not plan on attending or planned on attending elsewhere.
When asked why those who decided to attend other universities such as Snow College, some cited the lack of visibility of USU Eastern, noting the state-wide television commercial and billboards in Utah County advertising for Snow. Some also expressed concerns, questioning why would they attend USU Eastern when they could just attend USU Logan.
These questions will be explored further as this series continues, please continue reading The Eagle as we investigate further into the dropping enrollment on its campus.