The Decline in College Enrollment

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va-  Across the nation, college enrollment has declined. After years of growth, the numbers have suddenly dropped, some of this is partly due to the ongoing pandemic.

The pandemic has affected numerous aspects of student enrollment like the ability of international students to enroll.

Others have decided to take a gap year while they wait for the pandemic to improve. 

According to Inside Higher Ed overall, college enrollment has declined 2.5 percent this fall. This is twice the rate of decline reported in the fall of 2019. Higher education lost over three hundred thousand students since last fall.

Community college enrollment is down 10.1 percent. I spoke with Shepherd University’s Dr. Scott Beard who is the provost and vice president of academic affairs. 

 “The last 3-5 years, Shepherd has experienced an enrollment decline of 5-6% annually. In looking at the overall enrollment, there have been modest increases in our graduate programs and increases in continuing education or non-degree students that have been coupled with decreases in the traditional high-school-age population and transfer students,” said Dr. Beard.

“What is happening at Shepherd University is not unusual in our state and across the nation. Since 2011, many institutions of higher education have experienced continued decreasing undergraduate student enrollments due to declining high school-aged student populations across the nation,” said Dr. Beard in response to why enrollment is dropping. 

Shepherd has been able to maintain strong enrollment numbers for in-state West Virginia students, but out-of-state enrollment has declined in direct proportion to the lower number of high school-aged students in our surrounding states of Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

Dr. Beard noted, “Shepherd is no longer contending with only regional schools, but is now competing in a highly-coveted recruitment market with public, private, and proprietary institutions from across the entire eastern seaboard.”

“Increases in professional advisors, retention and support programs: We have programs like the Student Success Academic, Road to Recovery program, and more to assist students with academic and life skills to allow them to not just survive, but to thrive!” said Dr. Beard in response to how Shepherd is trying to overcome the decline.

Shepherd will also have new scholarships and new fully online programs in the graduate area and with the Rn-BSN program starting in fall 2021.

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