State of Missouri seeing downward trend in students enrolling in higher education

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JOPLIN, Mo. — The State of Missouri is seeing less students enrolling in higher education.

The Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development released its fall enrollment report this week. The report shows an overall decline in enrollment statewide.

“We have seen an overall decline in the state. It was the slowest rate since fall 2015 to 2016 at -2.5%,” said Jessica Duren, Assistant Commissioner for Communications and Outreach at MDHEWD.

Missouri Southern saw the largest decline in enrollment in the state — a 13.7% decrease. Last year, MSSU had 5,036 students enroll and it dropped to 4,346 this year.

“There are varying factors likely that have contributed to fall enrollment dropping. Some of those could still be from the pandemic obviously, some could be financial factors. We have seen decades of growth in enrollment in colleges and university’s and so we are slowly seeing a decline these last few years,” said Duren.

Crowder College saw 5.1% drop. From 4,197 students in 2020 — to 3,982 in 2021.

“When there’s a shift in the economy, a lot of times we see people going back to school and enrolling in community colleges. Maybe to skill up or think about changing career paths. The COVID-19 effect did not see that change. With a previous recession we saw a huge increase in enrollment at community college. That was not the case with the pandemic even though we saw the shift in the economy. And that could just be the uncertainty of how courses were being delivered or if people would have the funds to pay for those courses if they lost their job,” said Duren.

MDHEWD officials say colleges and universities should map out career choices to make higher education more attractive to prospective students. Duren says getting a degree leads to higher salaries and is still valuable.

“A lot of times you’ll have more job opportunities and those opportunities likely come with better hours, better health benefits. We also see some benefits to communities. So lower incarceration rates, higher engagement in the community,” said Duren.

MDHEWD will present this report to the coordinating board for higher education on December 8th. College and university president’s and chancellors will be in attendance. We reached out to both Missouri Southern and Crowder today; officials from both schools were not available today for comment, but more information on this subject will come in the future.

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