University has seen a decline in enrollment
Tyler Fisher – Contributor
The university is losing students in fact, it has been losing students for several years.
“There are several reasons,” said the university’s new head of admissions , Nilvio Perez. “It’s easy to say that the pandemic has caused a decline in enrollment, but Southern is very dependent on Connecticut residents, and the number of high school graduates is on the decline.”
The decline in prospective students, coupled with the competition amongst Connecticut’s institutes of higher learning, out-of-state colleges, and the CSCU PACT program, which provides access to free tuition at community colleges leaves Southern struggling to grow its admission numbers.
Perez says of the 2019 and 2020 graduate high school classes, about 50% chose to enroll in school out of state. This leaves Connecticut universities scrambling to attract students to their school.
“From my perspective, being new here, I think there’s a way to tell our story a little differently. I think that the people that are here, the students and faculty, know how special it is, but many times if you live locally and hear Southern and don’t know how special it is, you kind of overlook it. ‘You’re like I’ll apply to UCONN,’ or ‘I’ll apply to Sacred heart,’” said Perez.
There was a difference of 686 fewer undergraduate students enrolled at the university in the Spring of 2021 than in the fall of 2020.
This change in enrollment is documented in the university factbooks released by the university’s Office of Institutional Research detailing the fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters.
The National Clearing House Student Research Center released a report detailing spring enrollment numbers on June 10, 2021.
The report stated, “Overall spring enrollment fell to 16.9 million from 17.5 million, marking a one-year decline of 3.5 percent or 603,000 students, seven times worse that than decline a year earlier.”
While the enrollment numbers for the nation have fallen, some students chose to continue their education here at Southern.
“I love it here,” said social work major Kyle Magri, a sophomore, praising the sense of community on campus. “I grew up around the New Haven area. The school has a great social work program, and I also love the inclusivity at Southern I felt that it was a very diverse, inclusive and wonderful university.”
“The community is what really makes the campus,” said Magri, “I find that the community at Southern and the people that I have met really make this a wonderful experience.”
The university’s mission statement describes the school as “student-centered” and “intentionally diverse.” While those words have proven true to some students, the university is also regarded as highly affordable.
English Literature major Theodore Ko, a junior, was drawn to the university because of low tuition costs.
“I liked that it was one of the most affordable in the country,” said Ko. “It was ranked up there.”
Moving forward, the university plans on improving its admission numbers by building connections.
Perez said, “We have really strong admission counselors and assistant directors who are building relationships with high schools, community colleges, and community-based organizations to try to really see how we can sustain and then grow enrollment from there.”
In addition to these budding relationships, Perez said the university is potentially looking into how it can make the university more affordable and accessible to students.
“I understand what the generational landscape is, but I still think having a five-minute conversation with someone can go a long way. I think it’s really being visible and making our office accessible and really sharing the story,” said Perez.