Current enrollment at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point is 8,567.
For comparison, in fall 2013 enrollment was at 9,643. Roughly a 1,100 difference over the span of three school years.
However, the drop from fall 2015 to fall 2016 steeps from 9,255 students, about a 7.4 percent drop in enrollment. Which is proportionally the largest annual decline from UW system universities this year and the largest UWSP has ever experienced.
While this is not the lowest enrollment has ever been, this is a historic percentage of change from one year to another.
This decline is unprecedented but so is the environment that affects these numbers.
Nearby feeder high schools have shrinking graduating classes, and in contrast to eight or ten years ago during the recession, fewer students are staying in school longer than four years.
Although the change is largely due to outside factors, a drop in enrollment has effects on campus.
As reported in The Pointer earlier this semester, Greg Lang, administrative assistant for Dining and Summer Conferences, said the decline in employment reflects declining enrollment within the university.
With less students comes less money to put into the school.
Erin Hintz, budget director for the university, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that if the numbers don’t pick up, she estimated the campus will lose $3.8 million in tuition revenue for campus operations.
While UWSP has been thriving in several areas, one spot that has partly affected enrollment is the school’s retention rate.
Jim Barrett, associate vice chancellor for Enrollment Management, said, “Over the same amount of time we do have a change in retention rate which is not something we are happy about. We’ve always historically had an above average retention rate. Our average right now is 76 percent.”
Retention used to be at a high of 83 percent. Retention is measured by full-first time students in the fall that come back the next fall.
“We have done a number of things around campus to address retention. We have a lot more offerings through the TLC, a retention coordinator and a title three grant for retention,” said Barrett.
Even if the long term numbers do stabilize for the university, there are still finical trade-offs that are occurring in the short term.
The newly elected Student Government Association president and vice president have concerns as well.
Katie Hansen, vice president-elect of SGA, said, “With enrollment down, we will have less segregated fees to work with and less tuition for academic programs.”
Barret noted that nationally when the economy is doing better there is a decrease in college enrollment. During the recession students would stay in school beyond four years inflating tuition numbers.
Today, besides students not overstaying their time at school, many are in and out in less than four years.
Between an increase of AP classes at high schools and the new general education program at UWSP, students are potentially funneling in less money to the university to get their degree.
Given that there are stark changes in outside forces impacting enrollment, the decline is not a calamity according to Barrett.
“I think enrollment based on what I see is going to stabilize, the numbers shouldn’t keep falling and people shouldn’t worry,” said Barrett.