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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development (DHEWD) released data last week showing enrollment at 67% of the state’s public colleges and universities dropped this fall.
Interviews with representatives from higher education institutions revealed the problem is more than the pandemic, with some pointing to shifting demographics, the changing economy, rising costs of tuition and more.
“Two years of the three-year period in question have been during a global pandemic,” Kent Heier, spokesperson for Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, said in an email.
“The young adults who have graduated high school the last two years have done so amid greater uncertainty than any recent graduating classes, and many have been reluctant to commit to continuing their education until more of that uncertainty is resolved.”
The Enrollment Exodus
Missouri institutions enrollment figures have steadily dropped since 2016, with 246,999 students enrolled in a public university or college five years ago, to 211,176 students enrolled this year – nearly a 15.6% difference.
Four-year public university enrollment figures decreased by 4% between fall 2020 and fall 2021, from 137,464 students to 136,957, whereas two-year public college enrollment dropped by 8.6% during the same time, from 75,465 students, to 74,219 by 2021.
Aside from the fact Missouri’s high school population is declining – which Jessica Duren, assistant commissioner at the DHEWD, says resulted in fewer college applicants – the cost of college has risen 169% since the 1980s, but the average salary among young adults only rose 20%.
According to a recent survey of high schoolers conducted by ECMC Group, a nonprofit aimed at helping student borrowers, the likelihood of attending a four-year school dropped roughly 20% in the past year and a half, with soaring tuition costs and student loan debt raised as the number one concern among young people.
“An economic downturn would have historically driven up enrollments especially at community colleges, but we didn’t see that effect this time (and that wasn’t unique to Missouri by any means),” Duren said in an email.
“Uncertainty on how courses would be delivered, health concerns, work uncertainty, etc, likely played a role in declines during the onset of the pandemic.”
Heier said Missouri Western, which saw a 9.5% drop in enrollment this year, faced personnel changes in its enrollment management division last year, resulting in delayed recruitment and admission processes at the university.
Other universities also experienced staffing shortages, yet did not list it as a factor in their enrollment declines when FOX4 emailed them.
“With stability in our leadership and a better defined recruitment process (this year), applications and admits for Fall 2022 are far ahead of where they were last year,” he said.
Missouri Southern State University (MSSU) in Joplin, a four-year institution, saw the largest enrollment decline of any higher education institution in the state this year, with 5,036 students in 2020 to 4,346 by fall 2021 – a 13.7% decrease. Harris Stowe State University, a two-year institution, had the second largest enrollment decline this year, from 1,400 students to 1,210 – a 13.6% drop.
The University of Missouri in St. Louis, a four-year institution, saw the largest enrollment spike this fall, from 13,874 students in 2020, to 15,189 in 2021 – a 9.5% spike. Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, another four-year institution, has the second highest enrollment gain, with 7,262 students to 7,868 by fall 2021 – an 8.3% increase.
Gregg Jones, director of communications and marketing at East Central College, which is a two-year institution, said the college provides scholarships and programs, like a student-run food pantry, which he believes contributes to the institution’s growing enrollment figures this year.
East Central College’s enrollment figures had been steadily declining since 2016, but this year, the institution saw a 2.5% increase in its enrollment from 2020.
Offering dual enrollment classes to high school students for college credit, and establishing women’s soccer and men’s baseball teams, helped attract student applicants to the college, he said.
“The extra support can make the difference between students dropping out of college or coming back to take classes during the next semester,” he said in an email. “We want to help students achieve their goals by helping them stay at East Central College.”
“The result of what we do is higher enrollment.”
Jones said institutions dedicated to helping students financially and academically – from the time they apply, to the moment they graduate – will see enrollment figures improve.
He said communicating during the pandemic is challenging, which is why universities need to be adamant with their retention efforts.
“We (East Central College) also have been communicating more regularly to all students to make them aware of the deadlines to enroll, and to be sure they are aware of all of the resources available to them,” Jones said in an email. “Traditional methods of reaching students, a letter in the mail, is not enough.”
Only nine colleges and universities, about 33%, saw enrollment figures increase between 2020 and 2021.
In a five year span, between 2015 and 2020, two-year college enrollment figures dropped by 11.1%, while four-year institutions decreased 20.2% – nearly a 58% difference.
“Financially, there are several options for students who are unable to pay the “sticker price” for tuition and fees,” Duren said in an email.
She said Missouri state aid programs, including the A+ Scholarship, Fast Track Workforce Incentive Grant, Access Missouri and federally-supported programs through the Missouri Job Center provides options for students to lower out-of-pocket costs.
“Not everyone chooses the same path, and they aren’t always linear,” she said in an email. “Not everyone can or will want to go straight into a four-year program, and that’s okay.”
For more information on enrollment figures for Missouri’s public colleges and universities, visit the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development’s website.
Dear Amy: My grandmother is 91 and lives on her own. Her husband died a year ago.
Although she has a few other grandchildren locally, I have always been her favorite because I was the first grandson.
My mom lives less than a mile away and sees her almost daily, and my grandmother talks to her neighbors, so she isn’t totally isolated.
I am in my 40s and live 20 miles away.
Ever since I learned to drive, my grandmother has asked me to come over for dinner. She often tries to lock me into a date for the next dinner before the one I’m eating is even finished.
This has always been annoying.
Over the years I would jokingly complain about it, but let it go.
This past year, with her living alone, this has gotten worse.
Now she expects me to come at least twice a week and complains if she doesn’t get enough one-on-one time with me.
She also has been complaining that “It has been a while” since she last saw me when it has only been a few days.
I cringe when she calls or texts because I know I’ll be asked to come over for dinner. Then I have to come up with some excuse – or cave.
Moon Alert: Avoid shopping or making important decisions from 2:30 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. EST today (11:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. PST). After that, the Moon moves from Virgo into Libra.
You are free-spirited and full of original ideas. You stand up for your beliefs and will often fight for the underdog. You are modern-thinking, multitalented, kind and generous. This year will be slower-paced and gentler with a stronger focus on relationships. Trust your intuition.
The stars show the kind of day you’ll have: 5-Dynamic; 4-Positive; 3-Average; 2-So-so; 1-Difficult
(March 21-April 19)
Today is a mixed bag. Initially, you might have disputes with co-workers or someone about something that is related to your health. Make no important decisions during the Moon Alert. Later in the day, you have to cooperate with others. At least listen to them. Tonight: Talk to old friends.
(April 20-May 20)
Parents have to be patient with their kids today. Likewise, romantic partners have to be patient with each other, because things can get testy. Fortunately, after the Moon Alert, everything falls into place and you can get work done. Tonight: Financial projects. Finish old projects.
(May 21-June 20)
Avoid family disputes today, especially in the middle of the day. Agree to nothing important during the Moon Alert. Afterward, as the day wears on, it becomes more playful and sociable. You will seek out fun diversions and enjoy lighthearted activities with kids. Tonight: Old flames?
(June 21-July 22)
Patience is the antidote to anger. Keep this in mind, because it’s easy to be irritated or angry with others today, especially siblings, relatives and neighbors. However, anger serves no purpose other than to make everyone miserable. Remember this. Tonight: Talk to relatives.
(July 23-Aug. 22)
Money disputes might arise today. Furthermore, shopping and important decisions should be avoided during the Moon Alert. Afterward, things will tend to mellow and you will be eager to enjoy pleasant conversations with others. Tonight: Possible travel delays.
(Aug. 23-Sept. 22)
For part of this day, the Moon is in your sign, but it is also at odds with fiery Mars, which will make you argumentative. Or you might attract someone who wants to fight. (Gulp.) Either way, stay chill. Avoid important decisions during the Moon Alert. Tonight: Double-check your finances.
(Sept. 23-Oct. 22)
After the Moon Alert today, the Moon will move into your sign, which will be empowering for you. However, it also will make you more excitable and emotional. Since you have the upper hand, do what you can to keep the peace. (You don’t like the stress of confrontation.) Tonight: Look for lost items.
(Oct. 23-Nov. 21)
Today you might be doing a slow boil because you’re angry about something but you feel you can’t speak up. After the Moon Alert is over, you will tell it like it is when talking to a friend or a group. Stay calm and rational. Tonight: Research.
(Nov. 22-Dec. 21)
You might have trouble dealing with authority figures, parents and bosses today, especially in the middle of the day. Don’t make a big deal about anything because it will be pointless during the Moon Alert. Afterward, talk to a friend or a group. Tonight: Avoid transportation delays.
(Dec. 22-Jan. 19)
Avoid controversial subjects today, because they will quickly disintegrate into arguments, especially during the Moon Alert. Afterward, you will be high-viz and people will notice you. Do be aware of this. Tonight: In touch with an old boss.
(Jan. 20-Feb. 18)
Financial disputes or disputes about shared property might be aggravating today. Nevertheless, do not agree to anything important during the Moon Alert. Be smart. Afterward, you will be open to exploring new ideas and new ways of doing things. Tonight: Double-check travel plans.
(Feb. 19-March 20)
Relations with partners and close friends might be contentious today. Avoid this conflict if you can. However, after the Moon Alert is over, you can confidently discuss shared property and financial matters, because as this day wears on, it gets better and better. Tonight: Check your finances.
The outgoing St Paul Winter Carnival Royal Family (King, Queen, Prime Minister, Winds, Princesses and Royal Guards), Vulcanus Rex and his Krewe, Klondike Kate and their families.
They committed to serve one year (2020) as ambassadors for the Winter Carnival, the City of St. Paul and the State of Minnesota. Then Covid struck and everything was discombobulated. They were asked to serve one more year (2021) and agreed to carry on.
They have done an admirable job in difficult circumstances and have spent a lot of time and money fulfilling their commitment.
A big THANK YOU and SAINTED to all of them.
Lois Lynch, Maplewood
A sainting to Dr. Geoffry Service, Kelly Viet and Anne Zowin of Midwest ENT; Melanie and Gretchen of Advanced Bionics.
I became progressively deaf through the years and was totally deaf the past four-plus years. I utilized hearing aids until they were of no help and then used the LiveTranscribe app for conversing and closed captions for TV and telephone.
In October 2021 I was evaluated and approved for the cochlear implant procedure. The surgery was Nov. 12, and the unit was activated on Dec. 2.
I am now among the hearing.
I can verbally participate in conversations, hear the doorbell and phone ring and hear my cats meow. I am blessed.
I thank and saint my Midwest ENT team for their guidance and care on my hearing journey.
Carol Mayala, Stillwater
To the person who stole my billfold I carelessly left on the counter at a nearby convenience store several weeks ago. I had to go through quite some trouble to replace my belongings. I made do — I got most everything back, except for my free car wash from Holiday Stationstores. You, however, will get what you deserve in the end, and it won’t be good, but that’s not for me to determine. Shame on you, but I expect you already know that.
Even more tainted though, is the person who stole Matt Thoreen’s dog (and vehicle, and tools) on Jan. 17 at 6 a.m. from the Mac-Groveland area. That puppy means the world to him! For God’s sake, bring her back, safe and sound! I implore you to show some empathy. What in the world is wrong with you, and for that matter, what is flippin’ wrong with our world these days? I am just so hard pressed to say.
Donna D’Amalfi, St. Paul
I want to thank all the public works employees for keeping the roads clean of snow and ice during the winter. They are quick about clearing the trails of snow once the roads are cleared, so that everyone can safely enjoy them. Throughout the summer they work hard at repairing potholes to keep the roads safe.
They also do a great job of keeping parks maintained so that everyone can use them safely and properly. During the summer I appreciate all the work they put in getting and keeping the parks and baseball fields maintained and ready to play on during the season. Many times it involves working weekend hours for a tournament.
Thank you for all you do to help the city!
Nathan Medved, age 13, Oakdale
I would like to sincerely saint the Orpheum Theatre box office staff for saving me after I had made an error buying tickets for the previous night.
When I realized what I had done, just hours before the performance (for which six of us were getting ready to attend, babysitters hired, plans adapted, etc.) I was in a total panic. They were very busy considering two pervious performances had to be canceled due to actors’ illnesses etc. So I’m sure they were juggling many different issues.
Despite all the chaos that they had to deal with they handled mine wonderfully! I truly felt rescued. Thank you.
Bob Sutherland, Lilydale
A big sainted to Joe Soucheray, finally someone who tells it like it is.
Jim Graaf, Inver Grove Heights
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