| 03.18.2018

Less apples or just oranges — Spring enrollment’s decline attributed to new apples-to-oranges comparison of counting students


The expected decline from fall to spring in the total number of students enrolled at the University of Idaho put UI 156 students shy of last year’s number.
Assistant Vice President of Enrollment Management Steve Neiheisel said although this year’s total of 11,551 falls short of last year’s 11,707, those apples have turned into oranges, because of a new way students are counted and a change to when the numbers are reported.
“People will want to make the comparison, but they are two different times and two different populations,” Neiheisel said.
The spring 2013 numbers are the first to be affected by the changes implemented by the Idaho State Board of Education, which moved the reporting date from the 10th day of spring semester to March 15. This means there is more time for students to drop from the university, but also that more dual-enrollment students are counted.
The new method of counting students means students like those on study abroad or those taking a single course for professional development are not tallied.
The changes and other mitigating factors have left Neiheisel content with the university’s efforts despite the decline.
“We don’t compare spring to fall, and for this year we are not comparing spring to spring of last year either,” he said. “This spring came in about where we expected. It’s a good number.”
The spring number is always smaller than the fall. This year’s decline from 12,937 at the end of last semester to 11,551 is the same 11 percent decline as in 2011-12. Neiheisel said the spring numbers are important in how they help predict what happens next fall.
“The biggest value in the spring enrollment is how it sets us up for next fall,” he said. “And there aren’t any real surprises.”
In a document the Faculty Senate will discuss at their meeting Tuesday, Neiheisel examined the prospective numbers for next fall with mixed results for the two aspects of enrollment: new students and continuing ones.
The new student numbers — freshmen, transfers, graduate students and law school applicants — are up. As of now, the number of freshmen applicants is up 8 percent and admissions are up 6 percent. Transfer applications are up 1 percent and admissions 3 percent, and the law school numbers, defying the declining national trend, are up as well. Neiheisel attributes this to the hard work of employees across campus, especially in the law school.
UI Provost Doug Baker’s positive take-away from the spring numbers was the improvement in diversity and access, especially for students of color and dual-enrollment students.
“We are making great strides with student’s of color,” Baker said, of the 1,504 enrolled. “Students of color are up about twice the rate of majority students.”
Baker said he is also proud of the efforts of university faculty and staff that doubled UI’s dual-enrollment participation among high school students.
The other positives for the enrollment department are 92 percent retention rate for freshman from fall to spring, an improvement on last year’s rate and a record Vandal Friday turnout up 11 percent from last year. Neiheisel said both forecast good news for next fall’s enrollment numbers.
There is bad news, however, for continuing student retention. For the second consecutive year, fewer students on the whole are continuing their education at UI.
Neiheisel attributes the drop-off to smaller freshmen classes in both fall 2011 and fall 2012. While this spring to fall transitions retention rate was up at 92 percent, retention from spring to fall has been down for both of those classes.
The change to the graduation credit requirement, which lowered the number of credits students need to graduate from 128 to 120, also impacts retention.
“Graduation rate goes up, retention goes down, they are fewer continuing students,” he said.
With outgoing President M. Duane Nellis’s stated goal of 16,000 students in Moscow by 2020, this dichotomy leaves the future of enrollment at UI in flux.
“We are going to get more new, but if we don’t have as many continuing, the question is how does that all play out?” Neiheisel said. “That’s how I left it with the Faculty Senate. I am not going to crystal ball it beyond that.”
Even with Nellis’s departure, this year’s goal remains growing the undergraduate population by targeting transfers, especially in state. With more students choosing community colleges amid the recession, according to a report in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Neiheisel sees the opportunity to target more of them as well as traditional applicants.
“If we can grow freshman and transfers that then serves as a foundation for long-term growth,” he said.
The spring enrollment totals provide mixed results to a campus currently working to expanded, but Neiheisel said next year’s numbers will show another increase in new students and retention of continuing. The comparison will at least be clearer as the new system begins to take effect.
“Next year we will do apples to apples,” Neiheisel said.
Dylan Brown can be reached at arg-news@uidaho.edu

Related Posts
No comments

There are currently no comments to show.