TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Indiana State University on Thursday announced a 12.6 percent decline for the Fall 2021 semester compared to last fall; however, administration remains hopeful for the future after seeing applications for Fall 2022 are higher than they’ve been at this point in five years.
“Enrollment is not where we need it to be, and we need to own this challenge,” ISU President Dr. Deborah J. Curtis said. “Recruiting and enrolling well prepared students to ISU is job one for everyone on campus.
ISU enrolled 9,459 for the Fall 2021 semester. Additionally, ISU will have several hundred “dual-credit” high school students taking courses for college credit. Following best practices, ISU eliminated dual-credit students from its enrollment count starting in Fall 2020. In the Fall 2018 and 2019 semesters, an average of 577 dual-credit students were counted.
Curtis said one factor is lasting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Everything is fluid right now. It’s evolving. The good news is we’re back here. We’re masked, but we are at 100% capacity so students are able to have the experience they wanted to have at college,” Curtis said. “It’s a big difference.”
While Coronavirus continues to surge, for Yahaira Hernandez, the pandemic showed her the importance of in-person learning.
“It was hard doing remote learning. We’re still paying the same amount to be at home and here. I feel like we have to take advantage of those resources. We’re still terrified of the pandemic, but we need to be here.” Hernandez said.
ISU had Spring 2021 enrollment of 9,662, a number exacerbated by the pandemic.
Several programs posted an increase or maintained historic high demand in Fall 2021, including Cyber Criminology, Elementary & Secondary Education, Interior Architectural Design, Math & Computer Science, and the MBA. Enrollment in the Honors College remains strong and continues to represent about 10 percent of total enrollment.
“We are pleased to recognize some of these positive trends, but there is much work to be done,” Curtis said.
Fall 2021 freshman enrollment was 1,434, down from 1,776 a year earlier. Yet the high school grade point average of the Fall 2021 freshmen was 3.29, the highest in at least 20 years. “High school GPA is the best predictor of success in college,” said Jason Trainer, Vice Provost of Enrollment Management.
Overall, ISU has 2,526 new students — first-time freshmen, graduate students, and transfers.
ISU’s enrollment decline comes as budget discussions are on-going. While having less students has impacted the school, Curtis said they’ve strategically planned.
“There’s been a lot of modifications of budgets in the last two fiscal years. We’ve been fortunately able to manage that with attrition and not letting go or laying off people,” Curtis said.
The Indiana State Advantage, announced earlier this month, is a bold, three-pronged guarantee starting with freshmen in Fall 2022. It includes a grant of up to $3,000 for an out-of-classroom educational experience for all on-campus first-time full-time students. That experience can include an internship, study abroad, research or a service project.
“We are being aggressive in addressing recruitment challenges that are all too familiar to those being faced by our colleagues at institutions similar to ISU,” Curtis said. “We know we have to adapt to changing demographics and attract traditional students as well as those among the 700,000 Hoosiers with some college and no degree. We have all of the talent and resources we need to bring a life-changing ISU education to more people.”
Other strategies include, through philanthropy and tuition.
“I.S.U. particularly the last two years has had some good philanthropy years, we can really drive that towards scholarships. Making sure those students come here, that’s where the hard work begins and this campus is embracing that. It’s everyone’s job to bring more students to Indiana State,” Curtis said.
Pell Grant-eligible students from Indiana who qualify academically will have what amounts to free tuition and those eligible are guaranteed the ability to graduate in four years or the rest of tuition is free.
The Indiana State Advantage also involves a realignment of existing scholarship resources.