Southeast Missouri State University student publication

SEMO Fall 2023 enrollment report shows decline in enrollment

Thursday, October 12, 2023
Graphic by Kate Haussman

SEMO Fall 2023 enrollment report, released to the public Sept. 22 has revealed enrollment has dropped 2.4% since last fall semester. According to an article by The Hechinger Report, the high prices of universities and the influx of new jobs have resulted in more high school graduates deciding to rethink their path to higher education.

On the release date, enrollment vice president Debbie Below met with the Board of Governors to present the report. During this meeting, they discussed how the numbers reflect the budget planning of Spring 2023 for the next school year, in addition to student outcomes and adjustments in SEMO’s academic programs.

“We projected that our enrollment would decline a little bit more than that [2.4%], closer to about 3-3.5%,” Below said. “Our revenue is on target, actually running ahead of where we had planned, which is always good.”

Although there are many enrollment reports during the school year, this particular one is known as the annual measuring point nationwide for institutions. The report was calculated at the end of the fourth week of this semester.

The four-week census report includes the total students enrolled at SEMO; undergraduate, graduate and high school students taking dual credit courses.

Total enrolled students dropped to 9,686; including 8,099 undergraduates (decreased 4..2%), 1,587 graduates (increased 7.7%) and 1,251 high school students enrolled in dual credit (increased 5.8%).

Student enrollment at SEMO has been declining since 2014, with only one upward spike from 2021 to 2022.

SEMO is one of many universities seeing a decrease in enrollment; it is happening nationally. According to a data table by College Data Initiative, graduate and undergraduate enrollment has decreased by over one million students since 2014.

Economic and workforce development assistant vice president Dan Presson said the knowledge Generation Z has of money may be why college enrollment numbers are dropping.

“Generation Z understands what a return on investment looks like, so they [Gen Z] are really looking at college attendance with a skeptical eye,” Presson said. “They [Gen Z] want to know that for their time and for their money, they’re going to get a return on their investments.”

In a What’s Up SEMO video published on Oct. 5 by Arrow, half of SEMO students interviewed said college was too expensive and should cost less or be completely free.

An immediate return on investment for students would be to enter the workforce after high school graduation, and Presson said there couldn’t be a better time to make that decision.

“The workforce right now has changed and people’s expectations of the workforce have changed,” Presson said. “A lot of students are choosing to go straight into the workforce out of high school, in order to make money.”

Food delivery platforms, like Doordash, have opened up new opportunities for people who decide secondary education is not right for them.

“There are so many different pathways for people to make an income, doordash and other things that really have changed the market,” Presson said.

There are also different options for those who still want a secondary education but do not want to commit to a four-year university.

“A lot of students are going to training programs, two-year programs, or even shorter technical training programs that are measured in months and hours,” Presson said “There’s just a lot of opportunities [for high school graduates.]”

To combat these dropping numbers, Below said SEMO has put in place a few new policies to attract more students. Some of the policies are; tuition fees are the same for all students and an ACT test is not required if the student has an overall GPA of 2.7.

SEMO is also working on a goal of “No wasted credits” to help transfer students come to SEMO without retaking classes.

“I’m very optimistic about our future,” Below said. “I see nothing but ambition and ideas, not excuses. These are challenging times, but I think it is important that we get creative.”

Although some numbers have dropped on this semester’s census report, there are other numbers showing a wide increase in departments at SEMO.

Below said most decreasing undergraduate majors have dropped similar percentages to one another but when it comes to which majors have increased, it is “quite unique.”

“We have a pretty large number of international students [1153], which are somewhat concentrated in computer science,” Below said. The computer science department now has over 1,000 students out of 9,686 [total enrolled at SEMO].”

A connection between international students and computer science is not only seen at SEMO but also across the entire United States. According to the 2022 Open Doors report in one year, the number of international students enrolling in computer science has increased 13.1%. This increase makes computer science the No. 1 major for international students.

Department chair of computer science Mario Guimaraes said the market for computer science jobs is a great place to be and is why so many international students have chosen it for their major.

“Students that are coming to the U.S. are looking for a job,” Guimaraes said “and computer science will get them a job.”

The Fall 2023 enrollment report is full of increases and decreases and ups and downs but SEMO is working to make all numbers point up with the new policies in place.