Enrollment continues to drop at Shepherd University

Shepherd University's enrollment has not risen since 2011 (Photo Courtesy of Picket Staff).

The U.S. Labor Department released data in 2011 which stated that 70.1 percent of high school graduates were headed to colleges and universities. This data made it appear as if Shepherd University’s enrollment would be rising in the ongoing years. However, Shepherd’s enrollment has dropped every year since fall 2011.

Shepherd recorded a student headcount of 4,393 in its 2011 fall census. In 2012, Shepherd’s headcount dropped to 4,326 students. The number has declined every year since 2011. The 2016 census counted 3,779 students at Shepherd University. In 2017 the census counted 3,736. Shepherd’s enrollment continues to drop, but in smaller increments.

William E. Sommers, Shepherd University’s vice president for enrollment management since 2016, says there is a clear explanation as to why Shepherd University’s enrollment has dropped in the past seven years.

“If you go out and look at our peer institutions you would see something similar,” Sommers said. “The decline has been happening not only at Shepherd University but at many of our peer institutions.”

West Virginia University has also experienced lower enrollment since 2011. In 2012, WVU enrollment had an undergraduate enrollment of 22,827. In 2013, the student headcount lowered to 22,757.

Sommers said Shepherd has found a way to combat the diminishing student enrollment.

“We have reached out to students in other states to attend Shepherd,” Sommers said. “We have also tried to encourage high schoolers to dual enroll in Shepherd while completing their senior year.”

Eleven institutions in West Virginia introduced dual enrollment programs in 2016. The 2017 college census showed that Bluesfield State College was the only West Virginia institution to see increased enrollment. Shepherd’s 2018 enrollment won’t be released by the college census until the fall.