MSU enrollment decrease graphic

MSU enrollment statistics broken down

Missouri State University is facing an enrollment drop for the 2019-2020 school year. Although the university’s total headcount has dropped, it is still experiencing growth in other areas.

Last year 20,330 students were enrolled at MSU. This year that number dropped by 4.6%. Total credit hours also dropped 5.4%, according to statistics compiled by Rob Hornberger, associate vice president for Enrollment Management and Services.

Hornberger said there are several factors that caused the enrollment drop. He said last May the “largest class ever” graduated from the university, with around 3,635 members leaving the university. 

Hornberger said the number of students graduating from Missouri high schools has been decreasing, and has been predicted to continue to drop for the next five years. He said this creates competition between MSU and other universities for student enrollment, as “We’re all fishing from the same pond.” 

He said many older students are not enrolling and instead focusing solely on working.

“We have fewer students 25 and older,” Hornberger said. “Usually that’s the sign of the economy, more people have jobs. So the economy being in a good spot is a good thing, but sometimes that will have an effect on enrollment.”

Hornberger said the speed of graduation has also changed, as MSU decreased its needed 125 credit hours to 120. This leads to students graduating sooner and a decrease in total enrollment.

To combat this drop in numbers, MSU is creating a “Strategic Enrollment Management” plan. A SEM plan is an approach many universities have taken to focus on helping students on academics as well as increasing university revenue.

“Our approach is to say ‘OK, we know this is coming, we’re not overreacting to it and (are not) overly worried,’” Hornberger said. “But we do want to be intentional and strategic in how we respond to it.

So that’s why we’re creating this SEM plan where we have members from across campus involved. For our kickoff we’ll probably have well over 150 faculty and staff involved.”

MSU’s plan focuses on recruiting and helping students in academics, as well as marketing the university to incoming students.

Hornberger said while MSU expected incoming freshmen, sophomores and transfer students to drop in number, its graduate level programs have experienced a 3% increase, totaling 3,746 members.

In a recent Clif’s Notes blog post, MSU President Clif Smart touched on the recent drop in enrollment affecting the university. Smart reported MSU still has time to assess the enrollment issue.

“The die is not firmly cast,” Smart said in the blog post. “We still have time to double our efforts and implement new recruitment and retention strategies. It is critical that we all work together to prioritize enrollment in the coming academic year.”

Smart’s blog said the SEM event will take place on Sept. 18 from noon to 5 p.m. at the Darr Agricultural Center.

The drop in enrollment for the 2019-2020 school year also has a predicted effect on finances for the 2020 fiscal year, showing a $4-5 million drop in financing for the university.

But both Hornberger and Smart are sure that the SEM plan implemented will help this issue in the coming school year.