Headcount is down at Colorado State University-Pueblo for the second year in a row, but university administrators have identified reasons for the decline, and plan to reverse the issue with intensified recruitment strategies.
“It (increased enrollment) won’t happen overnight, but we’re getting there,” said Paul Orscheln, vice president of Student Services and Enrollment Management.
CSU-Pueblo’s current headcount, which includes part-time and full-time students, is 4,669, which are 131 fewer students than in 2012.
The university had previously been on a five-year streak of rising enrollment, peaking in 2011 at 5,230 students, according to the 2012 CSU-Pueblo Fact Book.
People in administration say that they were ready for the decline in enrollment this year.
Because of nationwide trends in decrease in college enrollment, the administration at CSU-Pueblo was expecting a drop in enrollment of 2.85 percent, though the actual decrease turned out to be 3 percent, according to Orscheln.
“We don’t think there’s a trend going on here, since it’s only been the last two years and we have a good understanding of why it’s occurring,” Orscheln said.
One reason for the lower enrollment rates at CSU-Pueblo, he said, could be lower graduation rates among area high schools.
“The population of Southern Colorado is declining, and there are fewer students graduating from high schools in the state,” said President Lesley Di Mare in her State of the University address.
Di Mare said poor retention of freshmen at CSU-Pueblo is yet another reason for the declining headcount, but says the university is trying to address this issue.
“The university’s retention rate is now at approximately 63 percent. Our goal is to increase that number by 2 percentage points each year over the next five years to meet our long term targets,” Di Mare said.
New drop-for-non-payment policies may also be behind the two-year trend of dropping headcount, according to Orscheln.
The university received an audit in late 2011, which showed that the university administration was allowing students who were not paying their bills to continue to attend the university, which could have artificially inflated the headcount.
After the audit, administration began working to make students pay their tuition or be dropped from classes.
“In spring 2012, we began to work with students to create a process in which they would be required to pay their tuition,” Orscheln said. “In fall 2012, we fully implemented the policy and many students who hadn’t been paying tuition either didn’t enroll or were dropped from their classes.”
Some strategies CSU-Pueblo has implemented to increase enrollment include new scholarships that will help students who meet eligibility requirements, students who might not otherwise be able to afford to attend CSU-Pueblo.
Other strategies include increased marketing and recruitment efforts in Central America and a new emphasis on the concurrent enrollment program, which allows juniors and seniors to attend college classes at CSU-Pueblo while still in high school.
Headcount for international students is up 10 percent from last year, and the number of high school students enrolled concurrently is also up.
The increase in international students helps keep the university financially stable even when overall headcount has gone down, because they pay more tuition than a Colorado student does, according to Orscheln.
The university has also hired two more recruiters and expanded its overall marketing efforts.
“It’s a very complicated strategy to recruit students, but we’re on the right track and hope to see positive results for fall 2014,” Orscheln said.