Warrensburg – Enrollment at Missouri’s 13 public universities is down an average of 2 percent overall, with the University of Missouri-Columbia leading the way and UCM losing the second-most number of students.
MU lost students after racial unrest in November. UCM’s loss is based largely on a decline in foreign enrollment, fostered by concern about presidential politics, loans and costs.
MU lost the most in the fall class, 2,182 students versus same-semester 2015. The campus also had the second-largest percentage drop, 6.2 percent.
UCM had the second largest loss of students in the state after consecutive increases in fall enrollment since 2007. UCM logged the fourth-largest percentage drop, 2.8, with a loss of 407 students.
“Given the fact that last fall we had almost a 4½ percent increase, we knew that we were due for somewhat of a fall in that degree of growth,” UCM President Charles Ambrose said Thursday. “Almost all of that number is our international graduate population.”
The loss of international students may be a pause versus a trend, he said, with applications increasing.
Many of UCM’s international students come from India and Saudi Arabia. India is concerned about predatory lenders there and is making sure students have the ability to repay what they borrow, he said.
“And there’s some international students just waiting on the outcome of the election,” Ambrose said. “It’s almost a wait-and-see.”
He said he has not checked into whether some students favor Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton.
“The same thing with the Saudis – they’ve put more restrictions on their visas and limited some of the government-sponsored scholarships,” Ambrose said.
UCM’s fall enrollment drop could rebound in the spring, Ambrose said.
“In the last three years, our spring enrollment’s been bigger than our fall,” he said. “At the end of the year, we may be about even for where we were last year.”
MU spokesman Christian Basi attributed the decline to more than last year’s racial unrest.
“There are three factors that we are attributing it to,” Basi said. “The first was a decrease in high school graduates across the region. The second one was increased competition in some of our major theater markets; we’ve seen a significant increase among major public state institutions that have been recruiting in, for example, Chicago and St. Louis, which are two of our major recruiting areas. And last, of course, are the events of this past November.”
Mainly black students protested an alleged lack of administrative action to address concerns about bigotry at MU.
Basi said the 2 percent decrease in overall statewide enrollment is something MU expected, in part due to fewer high school students.
“We have been planning for that decrease for some time,” he said. “That was one of the reasons why we have been pushing so hard with recruitment over the past several years. … I don’t believe that number is going to recover for quite some time, so we are having to factor that into our future plans.”
The largest percentage of decline occurred at one of the state’s smallest public universities, Lincoln, Jefferson City. The 7 percent drop is based on 206 fewer students.