[Vandal] Idaho, WSU Optimistic About Fall Enrollment

robiegruss at aol.com robiegruss at aol.com
Fri Jul 17 06:51:30 PDT 2020

>From the Daily IdahonianMoscow, IdahoFriday, July 17, 2020
Idaho, WSU Optimistic About Fall Enrollment
Both schools expect to take a hit, but coronavirus-related drops appear to be less severe than first imagined
By Scott Jackson
Both Washington State University and the University of Idaho say they expect fall enrollment to be depressed somewhat because of the coronavirus pandemic, but early signs appear to indicate the effect may not be as severe as was first imagined.
“Pundits nationwide were saying we should expect a 20 percent drop in enrollments across the country and I think, as we get closer to the fall, we’re finding that that number was really, really far off,” said WSU Vice President for Marketing and Communications Phil Weiler. “Now, what we’re seeing — and there’s a lot of survey data that supports this — students and their parents, quite frankly, really want to get back into the classrooms when and if at all possible.”
Idaho Vice Provost for Strategic Enrollment Management Dean Kahler said early in the pandemic, he was in the camp expecting enrollment could fall by as much as 20 percent. He said before COVID-19 struck, Idaho was on a strong upward trend with enrollment. While Idaho is behind on enrollment compared to this same time last year, Kahler said the numbers are looking better and better every day. He said attendance to Idaho Bound events for prospective freshmen has been up significantly, which he hopes will help bolster a strong first-year cohort in the fall and early metrics for returning students aren’t looking bad either.
“Retention numbers for first-year and second-years were trending almost 1 percent better than we were the year previous year,” Kahler said. “Our continuing student numbers overall are a little bit slow, but they’re not as bad as what I thought we would be at earlier in the spring when COVID hit.”
Kahler said parents and students appear to be taking more time than usual to make final decisions concerning college. He said COVID-19-related issues, such as whether schools will offer face-to-face instruction and require face masks, have been the subject of scrutiny both by parents and their prospective students.
In the meantime, Kahler said, traditional barriers for college access have not disappeared — in some cases, those problems have been amplified by the pandemic.
“If family finances were an issue before COVID — COVID now magnifies them a little bit,” he said.
Weiler said some WSU campuses are struggling more than others but the expectation is more optimistic than it was a few months ago based on early data. He warned enrollment numbers won’t be finalized until 10 days after the first day of school but WSU is “pretty pleased with where we stand.”
“All signs are indicating that we’re going to have pretty close to what would be a normal freshman class this next year, and as far as returning students — it looks like we’re on par with what we would expect typically,” Weiler said. “It might be down slightly, but it’s not anywhere near the dire predictions that pundits were making just a couple months ago.”
Weiler said WSU also saw record summer enrollment this year — even with classes entirely online. He said this indicates two things to him: that courses that were moved online in the spring were still a high quality product that was worth their time and money and that students are anxious to make good use of their down time.
“Typically, students are working in the summer, if they’re lucky enough, they might be doing some traveling in the summer — neither of those things are, for the most part, available to students right now,” Weiler said. “I think students were looking at ‘What am I going to do this summer,’ and they made the decision that this would be a great time to actually pick up some extra credits and make good use of the time.”
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