Shepherd University is in the midst of a simultaneous funding and enrollment decline.
University enrollment has gone down 12 percent in the last 5 years, according to the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission. Shepherd is not alone in its enrollment slump. West Virginia universities’ enrollment has gone down by an average of 6 percent since 2011.
Meanwhile, state funding for higher education has been cut 23.6 percent in eight years, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Out of the 46 states that have cut funding, West Virginia ranks 13. Subsequently, West Virginia universities have on average raised tuition by 42.4 percent since 2008.
Bill Sommers, Shepherd’s new vice president for enrollment management, points out that as high school graduation numbers drop in West Virginia and across the nation, enrollment at public universities often sees an equivalent reflection of the drop in their enrollment numbers.
Shepherd is looking to resident high school seniors as well as out of state students and older adults looking to return to school, Sommers said. Shepherd is also looking to expand its international student base, he said.
WVU’s College of Business and Economics released a study in August showing that the total economic impact of West Virginia’s higher education institutions on the state in 2014 came to $2.7 billion while state funding for the schools was $401 million, slightly more than one seventh of their economic impact.
Shepherd came in at number three in economic impact among West Virginia’s 12 four-year universities, creating $91.1 million in revenue for the surrounding area of Shepherdstown.