The numbers are in, and the news isn’t good.
MSU Denver’s enrollment of new students may be up, but overall enrollment is down by about 2 percent. It may not seem like much, but Judi Diaz Bonacquisti, associate vice president for enrollment services, said that there is reason for the school administration to worry.
“It’s not where we want to be,” she said. “This year’s budget is based on last year’s enrollment and this drop in enrollment can become a financial issue.”
Enrollment at other schools around the state appears to be up, some of them at a record high. Mitchel Davis, who works in the enrollment offices at Fort Lewis State College in Durango, said that they’ve seen a rise in the enrollment rates of both new and returning students.
“We haven’t had our census yet, so the numbers are approximate,” Davis said. “It looks like we’ll see a strong enrollment increase compared to the last five years.”
CSU is also seeing a steady rise in enrollment. Enrollment reports posted on their website show that the rate of increase has slowed over the past five years, but they are still reporting record highs in enrollment.
The drop in MSU Denver’s number is in returning students, and Associate Vice President Bonacquisti said that that drop could be for a number of reasons ranging from holds on registration to students hitting their loan aggregates. A graph of registration holds showed that most students are held back from enrollment by immunization paperwork or outstanding tuition balances.
Bonacquisti said that the economy may also play a part in the drop in numbers just as it did when enrollment spiked in 2009.
“When the economy was really tanking in 2009 and people were losing their jobs, they were coming back to school and retooling,” she said. “The economy’s picking up a little bit now where people are saying, ‘I’m only going to take nine credits now because they put me back on full time again at work.’”
One of the ways to combat a decline in enrollment, Bonacquisti said, is to work with new students to encourage them to complete their degree rather than dropping out, but she said that they also need to understand their responsibility to their education so that they don’t find themselves having with holds against their registration.
“We need to encourage them to get in here, see their advisor, get a CAPP report and then be wise about what they’re doing,” she said. “They need to understand that it’s important to be careful how they take loans so they don’t use all of their financial aid before they finish school.
Bonacquisti pointed out that when other universities see a drop in enrollment, they court out-of-state students to make up the financial difference for the in-state tuition that they’re losing.
“That’s really not our mission,” she said in reference to the university’s goal to be a community oriented institution. “We are going to be looking at what our mission should be in the future, though, so we can keep our tuition affordable to our current students.”