More freshmen than expected arrived at MU this year, but overall numbers were still lower than last year’s freshman class.
In 2017, 4,134 freshmen were enrolled, for a total of 30,870, according to official numbers released Wednesday by MU.
These numbers are higher than the 4,009 freshmen and 30,400 total MU estimated in May, but they are below the 2016 numbers of 5,995 freshmen and 33,266 total students.
This year, MU has its lowest total enrollment since 2008, data on the university website showed.
However, MU has “more first-year students, including more Missourians, than any other university in the state,” according an MU news release.
Enrollment matters because tuition and fees comprise one of two main ways MU generates revenue. The other is state funding, which continues its long-term decline.
This fall, 2,754 first-time college students from Missouri and 22,160 total Missourian residents are on campus, MU spokesman Christian Basi said in an email.
MU’s 2017 retention rate — how many freshmen return for their second year — is the second highest ever — at 87 percent, according to the release.
Marshall Stewart, MU’s vice chancellor for extension and engagement, has described the University of Missouri System’s new recruitment strategy for freshmen as a “Missouri first” attitude. UM System President Mun Choi has placed similar emphasis on state students, with a call for improved affordability and access for Missouri residents.
At a July retreat of the UM System Board of Curators, Pelema Morrice, MU vice provost for enrollment management, cited Missouri’s low college-age population as one key reason for low enrollment. He said growth will have to come from aggressive recruiting or retention of current students.
This has included doubling the visits to high schools as well as calling potential students six months earlier than before. Stewart has noted the importance of MU Extension offices, saying they expand the university’s influence in both rural and urban areas.
Jim Spain, vice provost for undergraduate studies and eLearning, said this year’s enrollment numbers are a positive sign.
“This tells me that the University of Missouri is attracting the state’s best and brightest,” he said in the news release.