Enrollment team wonders how campus crises may impact enrollment amid a continued decline

Enrollment shows a slight decline of 148 students from spring-to-spring semester, and the recent campus crises have left enrollment management wondering if and how enrollment may be impacted. 

Last fall, Chief Enrollment Strategist Wendi Clouse and Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management Jose Cantu said there was a promising sign of future growth despite seeing a continued decline in enrollment by census date, and now, they are wondering how the Feb. 16 double homicides and the death of another student following a medical emergency on Feb. 12 may impact enrollment.  

As of the census date, there are 9,839 degree-seeking students at UCCS this spring, with last spring’s census date having 9,987. Since 2019, enrollment by the census date (11,524 in 2019) and by the end of the term (11,537) has steadily declined for the spring semesters. 

The recent fall semester had 10,685 degree-seeking students enrolled by the end of term, which is the lowest it has been since 2014, according to UCCS’ institutional research data.  

“It’s not uncommon for universities to experience a decrease in enrollment from fall to spring due to reasons such as students graduating in the fall, taking a break from studies, transferring to other institutions or encountering academic difficulties,” Cantu wrote in a follow-up email. 

While enrollment is down, Clouse noted the difference between semesters is much smaller when you look at student credit hours, noting a 0.1% decrease compared to a 3.7% decrease between the 2023 and 2024 spring-to-spring census date. This “substantial improvement” has Clouse expecting an increase in student credit hours by this spring’s end of term. 

“We are cautiously optimistic. We have observed increases in new student enrollment in the past few semesters, and this is an indicator of growth. We have a lot of student interest for fall 2024. Our primary focus is stability, and we will plan for sustainable growth moving forward,” Clouse wrote in a follow-up email. 

After the week of Feb. 12, UCCS put together the Mountain Lion Enrollment Strategy Team to monitor the impact on enrollment and collaborate with students who might need support. While they have had students withdraw from UCCS, Clouse said it has not been at an increased rate compared to previous terms.  

The team was designed with the goal of showing the resiliency of the student body during a difficult time, and they meet weekly to put together initiatives that help connect students to community resources. Clouse said the toughest balance comes in showing strength during adversity while not forgetting the tragedies. 

The strategy team is also focusing on a long-term re-engagement campaign; this seeks to reassure students who have withdrawn from UCCS that the university is prioritizing safety, and that they are equipped with support systems to help students in crisis. 

Cantu and Clouse said the goal is for UCCS to be an intimate experience with smaller class sizes that still offers the high standard of education the CU system prioritizes. The enrollment team also travels to high schools in Colorado Springs and to college fairs around the nation to spread the word about UCCS.  

Cantu said that increasing access to education in and out of state will drive the global competitiveness of UCCS and increase enrollment. 

According to Cantu, enrollment growth gives the university the ability to focus their budget more on students’ needs and wants. Clouse added that UCCS is meant to be catered to the individual. 

“Every student is important; I want to underscore that. None is better than the other, we want to serve them all,” she said. 

While UCCS is geared toward being more individualized than CU Boulder, it still shares similar standards when it comes to in-state and out-of-state students. Like all CU schools, Clouse said UCCS is primarily evaluated on how it serves state residents, which is 81% of UCCS students. 

She added that out of state students (14% of UCCS students) bring a different element to the table by helping with diversifying the student base.  

“It’s [out of state students] giving UCCS that opportunity to be more prominent in the… higher education market,” Cantu said. 

Student fees have been on the rise since 2018, apart from a dip in the 2022-23 school year. This has raised concerns over how UCCS will maintain an increasing enrollment and how student retention would fare.  

In response, UCCS is trying to reduce waitlists and simplify fees, so it’s easier for students to see what they are paying up front. Clouse also hopes new FAFSA regulations will make college more accessible in the coming years.

Photo via UCCS Photography Database.