University of Missouri system sees drop in enrollment

(KPLR) - Enrollment is down significantly at the University of Missouri this year.  The drop was expected, but the number may be a surprise to many people.  The main campus in Columbia has about 2,100 fewer undergraduate students this year compared to fall of 2015.  The bulk of that decrease comes from fewer incoming freshmen.  Part of the drop may be attributed to the tumultuous year the school had last year, but is likely also a factor of the growing concern over the rising cost of tuition.

The university system had been expecting the enrollment drop after the protests on campus and the departure of high level administrators.  But the actual numbers weren’t realized until school began a few days ago.  Michelle Luraschi, the College and Career Preparation Counselor at Pattonville High School, says she still sees many students who have the hearts sets on going to Mizzou.  But many families are also now exploring other options because schools across the area are offering very competitive student financial packages.  “Parents and students are much more cost conscious,” Luraschi says. “They are also exploring many more schools than I think they have in the past.”

Counselors say that in the past, the University of Missouri didn’t have to be as competitive as other schools because they were always at, or near, capacity.  That made other universities in Missouri more appealing because they would often give hefty scholarships and student loan packages to lure top students to their universities.  Other schools in surrounding states have also started recruiting St. Louis area students.  Colleges in Illinois, Kansas, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, and others are now offering in-state tuition of students from Missouri who qualify for admittance.

Luraschi says that it’s not just Mizzou seeing a drop.  Many other colleges, even community colleges, are seeing a drop because there are fewer students graduating from Missouri high schools.  St. Louis Community College system says they were down about 3-percent on opening day, but have actually gained more first time and re-entry students.  Missouri State University in Springfield was also down by around 30 incoming freshmen, but overall enrollment was up by nearly 800 students due to better retention.  So when you have fewer students going to college, coupled with other states cherry picking some of our top students, you are bound to see the numbers decline across the board.

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