I am constantly asked about enrollment numbers and where we stand for the Fall. This is an important question that I don’t mind addressing since it is an essential dimension for assessing university viability in higher education. I also am happy to report that the outlook for Sul Ross in the months ahead is good, although this is not the case at many institutions of similar size.
Earlier this week I read an article that indicated that the fate of small colleges and universities around the USA is trending downward. On average, enrollment numbers have fallen 10 percent across the country. Granted that while most of the declines are associated with smaller universities that are either independent or private, and therefore much more expensive than Sul Ross, nonetheless it underscores the fierce competition that smaller institutions face when it comes to student recruitment.
At SRSU, we are fortunate to have initiated a strong enrollment management plan that matches us with students seeking a private school education who find themselves on a public school budget. It also keys on student preferences for campus safety, a small town setting, and college programming that takes advantage of the Big Bend region and our cultural heritage, as well as, innovative degrees in new subjects like computer gaming and exotic ranch management.
So what are the strong numbers that we can report at this time? According to Denise Groves, Vice President for Enrollment Management and our very capable staff in Enrollment and Admissions, we are seeing promising projected increases in both the Summer and the Fall. For the upcoming summer term, comparing the number of students by this time last year who indicated they would be attending classes either in Summer I or Summer II, our projected headcount is ahead by 36.4 percent. Comparing anticipated student credit hour (SCH) production using the same methods, our forecast is for an increase in SCHs of 33.2 percent.
Shifting to Fall projections, we can look at student enrollment across two primary dimensions, those students who already are enrolled and those who will admit to Sul Ross for the first time (i.e., new applicants). For the former, our data suggest that currently enrolled students on our Alpine campus have greatly surpassed all expectations in terms of headcount and student credit hour production. At this time last year there were only 61 graduate students signed up for Fall classes compared to 89 so far this year (a 46% increase). In terms of total headcount, we have outpaced this same time last year a whopping 167 percent (94 last year compared to 251 this year). Even better, our SCHs among currently enrolled students is ahead by 207 percent so far (841 versus 2585)!
In addition to projected gains among returning students we also are excited about likely increases in new freshmen on the Alpine campus. So far the number of new freshman applicants who have met college requirements is 29 percent ahead of this time last year (398 last year versus 514 this year). Our total number of new undergraduates is up 27 percent overall (this includes transfers) and 79 percent for graduate applicants who have met all requirements for admission.
So whenever you see me, ask about enrollments. I love talking about them!