Preliminary MU enrollment figures show a freshman class smaller than last year’s but larger than administrators predicted in May. MU reported more than 4,100 freshmen began classes Monday, the first day of the fall semester. That represents a 14.6 percent decline from last year’s first-day freshman count. The 2016 figure was down 22.7 percent from 2015.
Administrators said in May they expected freshman enrollment would be close to 4,000. Officials estimate total MU enrollment is now 30,400, down from the 32,777 reported on the first day of classes in 2016. Officials emphasized the numbers are preliminary and will not be finalized until late September. In 2016, enrollment increased by 489 students between the first day and Oct. 6. Enrollment peaked in 2015 at 35,448, according to MU’s Institutional Research office.
Administrators hailed the university’s 86.6 percent retention rate, which is the second-highest in school history, according to a university news release. The rate represents the percentage of returning students who were freshmen last year.
“Our strong retention number, which is one of the highest among all of Missouri’s universities, shows us that students have successful academic experiences on campus,” said Pelema Morrice, vice provost for enrollment management.
Administrators cited multiple reasons for the strong retention rate. “Our students have opportunities unlike any other Missouri institution,” said new MU Chancellor Alexander Cartwright, “from undergraduate research and athletics to health care and extension.”
Student protests in the 2015 fall semester over the campus racial climate and the university’s response have been cited as reasons for the decline, but so have other factors. MU has had to deal with a series of state budget cuts, a declining pool of graduating high school seniors and a few mediocre seasons from its marquee sports programs.
Supervising editor is Mike Jenner.