TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — “If you take a look nationally, we’re seeing this happen across the country.”

Declining enrollment; it’s a challenge not unique to Indiana State University’s campus. Data shows freshmen enrollment dropped 2.5% nationally at four-year public institutes between Fall 2021 and Fall 2022.

At ISU, current enrollment sits at 7,834 students for the Spring 2023 semester. Here’s a breakdown of the past few years’ enrollment trend:

  • Spring 2023 – 7,834
  • Fall 2022 – 8,658
  • Spring 2022 – 8,541
  • Fall 2021 – 9,459
  • Spring 2021 – 9,908
  • Fall 2020 – 10,830
  • Spring 2020 – 11,049
  • Fall 2019 – 12,146

ISU President Deborah Curtis pointed to a decline in enrollment due to expected birth rates, along with the lingering effects of the pandemic on the typical Sycamore student body.

“We serve a large population of first-generation and Pell-eligible students,” Curtis explained. “That’s a population that right now coming out of the pandemic is staying home at a higher rate.”

Dr. Curtis said there is also a mismatch in head count due to the university graduating larger classes and bringing in smaller classes in recent years. She added mere numbers are not the main focus for a school like ISU.

“Head count isn’t everything,” Curtis said. “Especially coming in the door. The important part is how many of those students reach what they came here for.”

ISU’s current freshmen persistence rate measuring freshmen who returned from Fall 2022 to Spring 2023 is at 85% – that’s a 5% increase from Spring 2022 and a 10% increase from Spring 2021.

Dr. Curtis credited programs like Pathway to Blue, a partnership with Ivy Tech Community College, for allowing students who need a little extra preparation time to come to ISU’s campus better equipped to handle college and succeed on campus.

The university does have $12 million in expenses to cut, a process school leaders are working through now.

“Let’s envision the Indiana State 10 years from now, 20 years from now,” Curtis said. “That’s the process we’re in. Some of that does involve changes in our staffing. We’re in the midst of that process right now and we will see it through and commit to our media colleagues that when we’ve wrapped it, which should be earlier in the spring, we will come forward with a summary of where we are and the repositioning we’ve made to create the next Indiana State.”

The current state budget discussions at the Indianapolis Statehouse will play a role in that repositioning, according to Dr. Curtis. She pointed toward several pieces of legislation, from bills regarding FAFSA applications to a bill hoping to auto-enroll eligible students in the 21st Century Scholar program, as pieces that would help ISU better serve its current and future student body.

“We want more of those people who came in the door either as freshmen or beginning their masters’ degree or their PhD or their certificate completing what they came for,” Curtis said “I’m happy to say that the state is also rethinking their performance funding formula to focus a little bit more on that as well.”

There will be discussion of the budget repositioning at an ISU Board of Trustees brainstorming session on Thursday, February 16 at 1:30 p.m. on campus.

Continue to follow mywabashvalley.com for updates on ISU’s budget and enrollment.