By Anne Button
For only the second time in more than 20 semesters, Metro State's overall enrollment has taken a slight dip. The 0.7 percent reduction in enrollment from last fall adheres to the College’s enrollment management strategy adopted two years ago.
As of fall census date Sept. 7, total enrollment, including both graduate and undergraduate students, was 23,828, 180 fewer than last year’s 24,008 students. Undergraduate enrollment decreased 380 students, from 23,958 students last fall to 23,578 this fall (1.6 percent). Graduate enrollment, on the other hand, increased fivefold, from 50 to 250.
Ethnic diversity escalates
Also on the increase was the enrollment of undergraduate students of color, which now stands at 31.6 percent of the student body, up from 28.4 percent last fall (7,443 students this year, versus 6,806 last year—a 9.4 percent increase). Undergraduates identifying as Hispanic or Latino increased from 3,824 last fall to 4,281 this fall, or from 16.0 percent of the student body to 18.2 percent. While students identifying as African American and Asian both decreased, the number of students identifying as being two or more races increased significantly, from 238 to 614 students (158 percent).
“Embedded within the ‘two or more’ race category are 255 African Americans, 307 Native Americans and 167 Asian Americans,” says Associate Vice President of Enrollment Services Judi Diaz Bonacquisti. “It wouldn’t be accurate to say we have ‘lost’ these students, but have allowed a better system for their self-identification. Moving forward, we really have a new baseline with which to compare ourselves.”
The need for more capacity
According to Diaz Bonacquisti, the near-steady overall enrollment numbers are a reflection of the College’s enrollment management plan, developed in 2009. At that time, staff determined that the increasing enrollment couldn’t be accommodated at its then-current rate. There simply wasn’t enough room or staff. So, the College developed a strategy to manage enrollment growth until the campus has more classroom space, after the new Student Success Building is constructed and the office and classroom backfilling created by moves into the new building is complete (scheduled for spring 2012). While keeping enrollment steady until more space and resources became available, the plan includes a focus on retaining students already at the College and seeing them through to graduation.
The enrollment management efforts appear to have had some success.
“A less than one percent enrollment decrease is pretty close to holding enrollment steady,” says Diaz Bonacquisti. “We are in the process of determining the optimum capacity for Metro State with the new buildings and backfill, and will be working closely with deans to determine the appropriate student mix to fill those seats.”
In addition, the percentage of continuing students showed a slight increase, from 75.6 to 75.8 percent.
The student body is now more skewed toward upperclassmen than it was last year. The number of freshmen and sophomores decreased, while the number of juniors and seniors increased. For the first time since at least 1998 (the most recent year for which data are available), there are more seniors enrolled than freshmen (6,551 seniors, versus 6,481 freshmen).
“As an institution, we are more focused on our students’ success,” says Diaz Bonacquisti. “This means we need to recruit fewer new students, but stay committed to keeping them here and helping them progress to graduation. At the end of the day, that’s really what it’s all about.”
Graduate student enrollment builds
Enrollment growth in the newly offered master’s degree programs has risen sharply: Master’s candidates number 250 this fall, compared with 50 last fall, when the master’s degrees in accounting and teaching were first offered. The addition this year of the master of social work program added 115 new graduate students. Students pursuing a master’s of professional accountancy tripled, from 16 last year to 57 this year. And enrollment in the teacher education master’s program more than doubled, from 34 last year to 78 this year.
A number of new data categories are now being collected and presented by the Office of Institutional Research:
- The number of first-generation-to-college students is 7,422, or 31.2 percent of the student body.
- The number of Pell grant-eligible students is 2,989, or 12.7 percent of enrollment.
- The number of veterans enrolled and receiving educational benefits is 875, or 3.7 percent of enrollment.
The full 2011 Census Fall Undergraduate Student Profile and 2011 Graduate Student Profile provide detailed comparisons with previous years.
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