College enrollment declines by nearly 500, new student rates up

By Campus Editor

columbia’s recently announced fall 2015 enrollment shows a decline for the sixth consecutive year with nearly 500 fewer students total from the data reported from the Fall 2014 Semester, despite an increase in reported new students, according to a Sept. 25 emailed announcement from Senior Vice President and Provost Stan Wearden.

The college saw a 5 percent decrease in total enrollment during the last year—the number of students dropped from 9,442 to 8,961 students, Wearden’s email to staff and faculty said.

Though the total number of new students, which includes incoming freshman and graduate students as well as transfers, saw an overall increase by 7 percent, there are 679 fewer continuing undergraduate and graduate students.

Columbia’s enrollment decrease can be attributed to three events, Wearden said, including a seven-year decline of new students that created a smaller pool of possible continuing students, a need to improve the continuing student registration process and a need to consider how to improve curriculum and student services such as advising.

Wearden said there is no set number for how low enrollment can get before collegewide financial troubles worsen, but he added that he thinks the college is in a good place now, and he is going to do everything in his power to avoid a continuing decline.

“I do believe [the college has] hit that turnaround point,” he said.  

The new total of nearly 9,000 students misses the college administration’s projected enrollment of approximately 9,300 students, as reported Sept. 14 by The Chronicle.  Wearden said a group of administrators works to create those projections.

“I think we’re getting much better at these projections than we used to be, but obviously we need to tinker with that formula still,” Wearden said.

Wearden said there was an overall decrease, but he was pleasantly surprised with the 32.6 percent increase in transfer students and that there was only a minor decrease in the incoming freshmen class.

“That was the area we really needed to be turning things around,” Wearden said. “We want to turn the whole enrollment picture around altogether.”