Total MU enrollment is down but freshman numbers are better than expected

The columns at the University of Missouri campus in Columbia.
The columns at the University of Missouri campus in Columbia. File photo

Enrollment at the University of Missouri this year is still declining but the drop, especially with freshman, was not as deep as first projected.

The university on Wednesday released the official fourth-week census enrollment numbers for the 2017-2018 academic year. Universities wait to release official enrollment numbers until after the fourth week of school to account for drop-outs, no-shows and late transfers.

Total enrollment this year 30,870. The university had expected a lower number — just slightly more than 30,000. Last year at this time MU’s enrollment was 32,777. The year before enrollment was nearly 35,000.

The new numbers showed 4,134 freshman enrolled this fall.

That’s down from 4,799 freshmen last year, but it’s up from the 4,009 expected based on preliminary numbers released in May.

University officials boast that while the overall numbers are down the Columbia campus logged “near-record retention rates,” meaning students enrolled as freshman the previous year returned to attend a second year.

MU’s retention rate was 87 percent—the second highest in university history.

“These numbers show that students and parents understand the inherent value of an MU degree,” said MU’s new Chancellor Alexander Cartwright.

“Our students are heavily recruited because people know that Mizzou students have a strong work ethic and infuse Midwestern values into everything they do.”

MU is still struggling to recover from the blow it took to its reputation in the fall of 2015.

The university predicted a loss of enrollment and attributed it in part to 2015 student-led, racially charged protests, which led to the toppling of the university system president and the chancellor of the Columbia campus.

Both stepped away from their positions after football players threatened not to play a game and a student languished on a seven-day hunger strike. Students and faculty called for their resignations because of how claims of systemic racism on the campus were handled.

Since then the university has stepped up recruitment and put millions into advertising. Last month MU launched a program offering a free or significantly subsidized education to students who qualify for a federal Pell Grant based on financial need.

Mará Rose Williams: 816-234-4419, @marawilliamskc

New University of Missouri Chancellor Alexander Cartwright championed the Missouri Land Grant Compact he signed today, guaranteeing a free education for all in-state and Pell Grant-eligible students.