ESU Competes to Increase Enrollment Rates

Photo Credit / Charlese Freeman and Sean Mickalitis Undergraduate enrollment is down, though graduate enrollment is up.

Charlese Freeman

Student Life Editor

The university’s competition hurts its fall 2018 enrollment rates. The wavering economy, the drop in high school students and the university’s location make it difficult for the university to attract students. The administrative team plans to face enrollment issues through research and additional academic support.   

In fall 2017, the university enrolled a total of 6,742 students, both undergraduate and graduate – with 1,270 being a first-time and full-time freshman.

In fall 2018, the number of first-time full-time freshman dropped to 1,137 enrolled students. The overall enrollment decreased to 6,425 —plummeting by 317 students.

Despite the decline in the general student enrollment, ESU’s graduate enrollment rates spiked, from 691 students in fall 2017 to 712 students in fall 2018.

Also, over the course of five years, the enrollment of African Americans students has climbed. The university has enrolled 1,168 African American students.

“First the number of high school students is going down, so there are fewer students to be recruited,” said David Bousquet, the vice president of Enrollment management.

Bousquet suggests that ESU cannot bring in new college students if there are no high school students to recruit.

The blooming economy encourages students to dive into the workforce much sooner, abandoning the thought of college education. The U.S. Army’s 2018 recruitment rates also dipped due to the increase in the job market. The army missed its mark by about 6,500 soldiers.

ESU competes with multiple colleges and universities in the area and surrounding states, like New York and New Jersey.

Penn State University challenges the university because as a larger institution it has multiple state campuses and a more prestigious reputation than East Stroudsburg University.

“I worked in the Maryland system for about 23 years. It was an institution much like we are here and they’re very sensitive to the flow of the high school graduates [and] very sensitive to the dynamics of the economy in any given state and given time,” said Robert Smith, assistant vice president of Institutional Effectiveness, Planning, and Assessment. “In smaller institutions, you tend to see those peaks and valleys. It was very similar to the battle here with Penn State.”

Bousquet shares that New York’s Excelsior Scholarship tends to retain more of its students because the state offers a tuition-free opportunity to New York residents.

Other schools in the PASSHE system have also suffered enrollment declines, but West Chester University and Shippensburg University were among some of the schools that increased enrollment rates.

“By June 1, 38 percent of schools like us meet their enrollment target, and that indicates that all those other schools, us included, worked through the entire summer trying to bring in our class. That highlights how competitive it is for the students that are out there,” Bousquet said.

As a tuition-driven institution, enrollment is very important and affects the university’s funding as well as a variety of other components.

“It [enrollment rates] affects a lot of things. Tuition revenue is a part of your funding formula. You have what you call state appropriations, then you have tuition and fees which is a big part of funding…” said Robert Smith, assistant vice president of Institutional Effectiveness, Planning, and Assessment.

So how is ESU planning to deal with this issue? Smith explains there are a number of programs in place for student success such as tutoring and success workshops.

Dr. Brenda Friday, director of University Relations, briefly mentioned the start of a new program that will further the success of students —“WarriorFish”.

WarriorFish will officially be introduced to student’s spring 2019. The program is an online support system where faculty specific to a student’s major or area of study can reach out directly to a student. This new program will act as an additional support system for students.

“We do things like data mining,” said Smith. Data mining helps the university analyze why a student decides to leave or gravitate to other institutions.

The enrollment administrative team hopes by utilizing their resourced and research to strengthen ESU’s enrollment rates for future academic school years.

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