Southeastern, other public institutions see lower enrollment rates

Two years ago, education systems transitioned into remote learning as the nation went into lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The following two fall semesters, seven hurricanes were counted in Louisiana alone, three of which resulted in historic levels of destruction.

With these disruptions come shifts in students’ lives and, therefore, shifts in school enrollment. 

Southeastern’s Spring 2022 enrollment currently sits at 12,591, including 11,601 undergraduate and 990 graduate students – a dip in enrollment levels since the 2019-2020 academic year. 

Kay Maurin, chief enrollment management officer, said, “The Fall 2020 semester was strong; however, there was a decline in Fall 2021 enrollment which was consistent with what has been experienced by many public institutions both nationally and in Louisiana. Historically, enrollment is lower in the spring semester than in the corresponding fall semester and is not typically considered indicative of a downward trend.”

National college enrollment decreased by more than one million students since before the pandemic, according to an article by NPR. According to new data released in January, colleges and universities saw a drop of nearly 500,000 undergraduate students in Fall 2021 alone.

In Louisiana, both enrollment and TOPS participation are down. At the nine schools within the University of Louisiana System, undergraduate enrollment fell nearly 6%, to 75,067 students, according to The Advocate. The number of TOPS recipients also dropped 5.1%, to 27,784 students. 

“I think the pandemic is part of it, but for us it is mainly that we had four campuses in the last two falls that were totally disrupted by (hurricanes) Laura, Delta and Ida,” said UL System President Jim Henderson in The Advocate’s article.

Following Hurricane Ida, enrollment dropped 8% at Southeastern. 

Maurin elaborated on the impact of fluctuating enrollment rates in terms of revenue and funding generation for on-campus departments and offices.

She explained, “The revenue generated from student tuition and fees fluctuates with enrollment. While the recent decline in enrollment has negatively impacted the amount of revenue generated, federal relief grants associated with the pandemic have allowed Southeastern and other institutions to offset some of the revenue loss and thus mitigate some of the impact on departments and operations.”  

Although departmental finances are directly impacted by the number of students enrolled in the university, tuition rates are not, according to Maurin.

She said, “Tuition rates and scholarship funding have not been impacted by changes in the level of enrollment. In fact, tuition and mandatory attendance fees have remained fairly consistent over the last few years.”

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