Decade in review: Enrollment through EU's last 10 years

Category:  News
Wednesday, December 11th, 2019 at 8:06 AM
Decade in review: Enrollment through EU's last 10 years by Samantha Mannion
Graphic: Kimberly Firestine

Looking back at enrollment statistics for Edinboro University during the last decade, it’s easy to see the change. Decreasing from 8,642 in 2010, to 4,646 in 2019, you’re looking at a 46% drop. 

After that, the question becomes why. Dr. William Edmonds, the vice president for enrollment management at EU since January 2016, explained that part of the answer is more people being of college age early in the decade. “When you look at the census data looking back at 2010-2011, that was the peak of the enrollment funnel at most institutions,” he said. Enrollment funnel means that schools had more available students then.

Edmonds identified economic changes as another part of this enrollment drop. The start of the decade coincided with the recession and the housing market crash. The economy improving later in the decade could have had an effect on enrollment. As Edmonds explains it, “When the economy is strong and there’s a lot of opportunity and jobs, people don’t need to go to college,” versus when the economy is bad, they have to get a better education for job purposes.  

When asked about plans to combat low enrollment, Edmonds mentioned the partnerships being formed across campus. For example, Edinboro University’s Office of Marketing and Communications is working with admissions on the upcoming update to Edinboro.edu. Admissions is also working with individual academic departments and the provost.  

According to Edmonds, this is in order to, “Work as a team and as a unit, not a silo,” and also, “to improve the student experience, to improve retention, to improve recruitment, [and] to improve student success.”  

He also mentioned they have expanded their recruitment parameters from 100 miles outside campus to 150, hiring more people for this change. The university also upped the admissions requirements, not to make it more inclusive, but to make it more exclusive.  

In EU’s case, this means revisiting their student matrix score. This score puts an 80% weight on high school GPA and 20% weight on standardized test grades, creating the score for possible incoming freshmen. Previously, a 1050 matrix score would secure you entrance into Edinboro, which was approximately a 2.75 GPA and a 930 SAT score. Now, you need a 1090 matrix score, which is approximately a 2.85 GPA and 1050 SAT score.

National and local publications have taken note of this ongoing change in policy.  

In February 2017, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote a story about Edinboro with the headline: “Struggling Edinboro University plans to be more selective.” In May 2017, with the acceptance rate for Edinboro at 95.3%, The Spectator published a story linking EU’s efforts to increase the admissions standards to efforts at increasing retention of eventual students. An excerpt from that story, written by former Executive Editor Dakota Palmer, reads: 

“According to research from the (EU) working groups, the second-year attrition rates (percentage of students who did not return to Edinboro after their freshman year) from the years 2004 to 2014 have fluctuated, but typically have stayed around 30%. In fall 2004, it was the highest at 33.1%, while in fall 2008, it was the lowest at 24.8%. 

Most recently, according to the data, the second-year attrition rate in fall 2014 was 30.2%, compared to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education’s average total of 21.9%.” 

In 2018, even The New York Times was writing on Edinboro’s changes, stating that the “school toughened admissions requirements to weed out local students who have traditionally turned to Edinboro as their only education option.” 

In November 2019, in a meeting between EU faculty and University President Dr. Guiyou Huang, the new campus leader appeared to present intended results. According to the meeting PowerPoint, “student preparedness is up: Average High School GPA for first-year Fall 2019 students is 3.55.” 

Matt Cettin, director of institutional research and assessment, also touched on retention and attrition in an interview. “When people talk about enrollment, one the things they miss is that it’s not about how many students are just coming in the door, but also how many students stay.”  

He said that about 70% of students at Edinboro come back after their first year, while the other 30% transfer or otherwise leave the university. It then goes down to the low 60% range for sophomore to junior year, then down to approximately 50% for junior to senior year.

Cettin also mentioned that when people leave Edinboro, it’s either for personal or financial reasons. 

“We’ve dealt with a number of issues, and what we’re trying to do is find the big ones that we can actually control.” For the university, that is academics and finances.  

He explained that there’s a committee that’s part of Edinboro’s new strategic plan, which is dedicated to retention and student engagement and is looking to offer academic and financial support options to those struggling. 

“We’re almost doing a brute force effort to try and stem retention as much as possible.” 

According to that November 2019 meeting, Huang has identified several admission and retention goals for the future. This includes hitting 5,000 students once again by Fall 2022, while developing university-level and department-level retention plans in efforts at 1% retention increases a year. If hitting that 1% increase a year, Cettin explained that this would put EU “near the top of” the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. 

In terms of new students, Cettin said they are trying to get 800 new students enrolled next year, then 900 the next. Enrollment jumped from 598 in Fall 2018 to 706 in Fall 2019. That counted as an 18% increase. 

Meanwhile, “inquiries” for Fall 2020 are up by 40%, while applications are up 39%.

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