Southeast Missouri State University student publication

As Enrollment Numbers Drop At Southeast, Retention and Graduation Rates Boost

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

While the university has seen a decline in enrollment this year, it is also experiencing a record retention rate among first-year students.

The overall decline in headcount is 401 students.

Meanwhile, the new record-breaking numbers have been a goal of the enrollment department, said Deborah Below, vice president for enrollment management and student success.

“First-time students have hit a new retention rate of 75.3%,” Below said. “Which is really a testament to the work of so many people on campus to find ways to better help students achieve in the classroom and engage in the university community.”

The university has also seen a boost in the graduation rate on campus, she said.

“We measure enrollment at the university two ways,” Below said. “One is through headcount, which is the number of students enrolled in at least one course. The other is the full-time equivalent: the number of students who, on average, are enrolled full-time at the university.”

Below said university officials worked to build a budget prepared for a potential overall decline, and they plan around the same expected factors that have been seen around the state.

She said the university was certain to take account of expenditures and craft long-term plans around those concerns.

The Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development will likely share statistics and data analyzing those factors this fall, Below said, after the department finishes collecting it from higher learning institutions.

Below said at large, however, there has been a decrease in headcount overall in the state.

“That decline over the last five years has been 10%,” she said. “There are fewer students who are studying at Missouri’s institutions, and that’s a trend that we’re seeing throughout the nation as well for many states.”

Despite the new record in retention and increase in graduation, the university has a higher goal in mind, Below said.

“We have a goal – and it’s an ambitious goal – to retain 80% of our beginning freshman class, those who enrolled full-time,” she said.

Below added the state of Missouri hopes to up the number of residents with college certificates, associate’s degrees or bachelor’s degrees to 60% from the 35.89% where it currently stands, according to the U.S. Census Survey.

Part of helping Southeast in achieving that goal, she said, is to provide awards and scholarships to lessen the student burden, as through the Copper Dome Scholarship Program, which has been able to help 70% of students.

This year, the university has added a specifically need-based program with the Will to Do Award, a scholarship aimed to make higher education more affordable and accessible.

“Southeast has offered need-based aid for many years, but we’ve coupled those together so it’s easier for families to access the dollars and understand the true net cost of paying for college,” Below said.

Below said she believes the quality of the programs at Southeast draw students to the university.

“It’s exciting to see our faculty and our academic leadership working together to continue to strengthen our academic programs,” she said.