Freshmen numbers up 24.5 percent from last year, total headcount up 7 percent

Analicia Haynes, Editor-in-Chief

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Editor’s note:

An additional story will be published in Thursday’s edition of The Daily Eastern News that takes a closer look at the factors that went into the increase in enrollment, how the increase in enrollment has affected Housing and Dining and the current retention efforts the university is using.

Eastern’s overall fall enrollment increased by 7.1 percent and the first-time freshmen enrollment increased by 24.5 percent compared to last fall.

According to Eastern’s Tenth Day Enrollment numbers, there is a total head count of 7,526 students compared to last year’s number of 7,030, and of that there are 789 freshmen unlike last fall, which saw a total of 634.

Josh Norman, the associate vice president for enrollment management, said this number reflects undergraduate and graduate students, post-baccalaureate undergraduate and post-baccalaureate graduate students, students taking dual-credit courses or online courses who are enrolled full time and part-time.

Norman said the goal, which is to be achieved over the course of 10 years, is to see an enrollment number between 9,000 and 10,000 students.

Paul McCann, the interim vice president for business affairs, said since the tenth day numbers are out, he can now look at recalculating how much Eastern will see in tuition dollars, which he said is no where near the initial 9 percent decrease he originally predicted.

He said although the freshman and transfer numbers exceed those from last year, they still do not exceed the number of graduating students but eventually the goal is to get to a point where the number of students graduating Eastern matches the number of students entering.

Pieces of enrollment

Norman said the increase is a result from several “pieces” that all play a part.

These pieces include year-long retention efforts such as altering the Merit scholarship model that focuses more on GPA than ACT scores, work from Eastern’s admissions office and but the benefits from the annual strategic data plan that was established in 2017.

The plan is in its second year and spans across 10 years, and Norman said a big difference between this year’s increase in enrollment and last year’s drop in enrollment was that plan because it adjusts annually to reflect the changing demographics and behaviors in data collected from students and potential students.

He said every year he looks at data such as that from college choice surveys given out to current admitted students asking them about their college choice.

He said just over 1,000 students who were admitted to Eastern responded to this year’s survey and he said, “the best data comes from students who aren’t coming here and they tell us why.”

Whether it is the appearance of residence halls or a reaction to a tour guide, Norman said he uses this data, which is just one example of data used, to see what needs to be changed to help recruitment and retention efforts.

Director of Admissions Kelly Miller said part of the increase in enrollment resulted from a team effort from admissions and everyone else on campus, the new programs on campus, the marketing rebranding efforts and alumni who come back to campus and help bring in potential students.

Moving forward

Norman said what the university is focused on right now is retention efforts to make sure it reaches its 10-year goal of acquiring 9,000 to 10,000 students by 2027.

“What we’re focused on is not the overall enrollment number, what we’re focused on is retention rates, graduation rates, above all else. We want to see students walk across that stage we want them to go out and change the world,” Norman said.

He said when looking at Eastern’s history or enrollment in 2007, even though enrollment was high (a total of 11,013 students according to the Fall 2007 tenth day enrollment numbers) and Eastern was “busting at the seams,” students were not served well.

“We couldn’t find parking spaces they were in classes full of 150 people it’s just not who we are so the president has made a commitment to not build an empire but instead to grow the student enrollment to the point where we can serve our students, faculty and staff,” he said.

That’s why he said an enrollment number between 9,000 to 10,000 is the goal because the needs of students would be met and the university benefits from it.

McCann said even though the freshman class is up over last year and transfer students are up over last year, the overall number of students graduating last year still exceeds the number of new freshmen and transfers.

However, he said the increase is something to be excited about because of the large turn around in enrollment.

As for Eastern’s budget, he said he can start recalculating what the total tuition dollars will be, but it is still too early to tell exactly how the increase will affect tuition dollars.

Originally, during a June meeting of Eastern’s Board of Trustees, McCann said he anticipated a 9 percent decrease in tuition dollars but as a result from the enrollment increase, the percentage of total tuition dollars this year will be significantly above that.

“We’re doing this little by little and we’re making significant gains on it but it’s going to take awhile before you can say ‘Oh we got more money than what we did last year,” he said.

As of right now, the university is still going to be cautious until the number of students graduating Eastern matches the number of students enrolled at Eastern but they are on the right track.

Analicia Haynes can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].