Spring enrollment continues decline

Luis Martinez, Administration Editor

Eastern has 8,214 students this semester, which is a decline of almost 700 students from the 8,913 enrolled last fall.

The spring enrollment numbers from the 10-day census were made available via a press release Thursday morning.

Blair Lord, the provost and vice president for academic affairs, said a decline between the fall and spring semesters is common.

“The spring enrollment pattern is usually very predicable once we know what the fall enrollment looks like,” Lord said. “The spring enrollments are always lower than fall enrollments at Eastern and virtually any other institution.”

Lord said the reason for a lower enrollment was because of students graduating in the fall.

“The relationship between fall enrollments and spring enrollments is very stable historically,” Lord said. “Once you know fall enrollments, then you can pretty well predict spring.”

Eastern saw 728 students graduate last December.

Over the past few years, Eastern’s enrollment numbers have been declining, and the low numbers have negative effects on the campus as a whole.

“I think the entire campus community is sensitized right now to enrollment issues because we’ve have several years of declining enrollment which creates various stresses on the institution,” Lord said.

Lord also said the administration had noticed that the fall enrollment numbers were in a decline, so when it can to the spring numbers, they showed no surprise.

According to the press release, the freshmen retention rate is at 89 percent, which also means that 11 percent of freshmen did not come back for various reasons.

“We have a whole group on campus, the Committee On Retention Efforts, they look at retention matters for the campus at the undergraduate level very closely,” Lord said.

Lord also said that normally, the retention rate is calculated from the start of the fall semester up to the beginning of the next fall semester.

In regards to the 89 percent retention rate, Lord said this is a high number because it is calculated based upon how many freshmen came back for the spring semester.

“The committee is looking at retention generally and trying to determine what we can do to improve retention,” Lord said. “ Every student that doesn’t come back here, particularly if it’s for a reason other than they wanted to go to a different institution, we pay a lot of attention to retention.”

Lord said retention at Eastern is good, but he also acknowledged that a portion of students who do no come back are not continuing toward their educational goals, and Eastern needs to look more into that.

When it comes to the university’s enrollment efforts, Lord said more students will come into Eastern during the fall rather than the spring semester.

“We have done many things to reinvent how we recruit and admit new undergraduates, both freshmen and new transfer students,” Lord said. “The tentative information we have looking toward next fall is that the number of students we’ve admitted at this point versus the same point last year is ahead of where we were a year ago.”

Lord said he believes progress is being made in terms of attracting more students.

“There are a fair number of new international students that started in January,” Lord said. “That’s not typical of American students; we tend to bring those in during the fall.”

Lord said that international enrollment numbers are growing, saying that last fall was the highest they been for a fall semester.

This semester, 281 international students are enrolled at Eastern, up from 273 in the fall.

Lord also said that according to the report, those numbers are at their highest for a spring semester.

“That’s been an intentional effort,” Lord said.

According to the press release, the seniors make up most of the student body at 2,668 currently enrolled.

“When you break out undergraduates into four classes, the senior class will always be the largest,” Lord said. “Because it includes people who are seniors in their fourth year, as well as seniors in their fifth year, sixth year.”

While the seniors are the largest class, Lord said he believes that the senior class is beginning to get a little smaller.

“As it gets smaller, we’ll have fewer graduate in May and eventually the numbers graduating and the numbers departing will be offset by the numbers we bring to the institution,” he said.

Lord also said one of the reasons for the decline in enrollment is because of having larger graduating classes and smaller entering classes.

“When you graduate a lot and you add a few, your total enrollment goes down,” Lord said. “We are going to get that into balance pretty soon, maybe not this year but it’s getting closer than it has been in the past.”

Luis Martinez can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].