Mizzou's freshmen enrollment is on the rise, and officials say it could continue to grow

A student was immediately removed from the University of Missouri campus following a report of sexual assault in a residence hall, university officials said Friday.
A student was immediately removed from the University of Missouri campus following a report of sexual assault in a residence hall, university officials said Friday.

Current enrollment figures indicate the University of Missouri will experience a much-needed boost in incoming freshmen next year.

As of May 1, the number of students who have paid deposits to be part of the incoming freshmen class has increased 14.4 percent from those collected last May for the 2017 school year.

On top of that, more students have currently paid to enroll in Mizzou this school year than were enrolled at Mizzou during the first month of classes of the most recent fall semester. More than 4,500 students have paid enrollment deposits for the 2018-19 school year. The university said 4,134 first time college students were enrolled at the university in Sept. 2017.

"We called on our team to evaluate the total recruitment experience, and we've reimagined the path to becoming a Tiger," Pelema Morrice, vice provost for enrollment management, said in a statement. "I could not be more excited about our new, incoming students. Mizzou has momentum, and we plan to keep that energy going."

The increase is welcome news for a university that has experienced dramatic enrollment decreases since the fall of 2015, when 6,191 first-time students enrolled at the University of Missouri.

After student-led protests against campus racism that fall, freshmen enrollment decreased drastically — dropping under 5,000 students for the first time since 2007 — to 4,770 students by 2016.

The fallout from the protests, which prompted the resignations of the UM System president and the chancellor of the Columbia campus, as well as severe state budget cuts, continued to stifle enrollment at Mizzou.

Last year's freshmen enrollment of 4,134 students marked the university's lowest first-time student population in more than a decade, though the drop was not as deep as university officials anticipated.

There were early signs that Mizzou would experience a much-needed increase in freshmen numbers this year.

In February, university officials said they were hopeful for an enrollment comeback after seeing increases in both freshmen and transfer student applications.

University officials had made a concerted effort to attract students to the Columbia campus, particularly through public outreach activities, hosting events for high school students and focusing on out-of-state recruitment.

In the past year, many new initiatives debuted to make Mizzou more affordable and enticing to students.

A partnership with Moberly Area Community College streamlined coursework and academic advising opportunities so that students can easily transfer to Mizzou.

New scholarships were made available to Pell-eligible Missouri residents, out-of-state students from eight bordering states, ROTC students and children of alumni.

The University also reduced the cost of housing and dining plans, and ensured that students could not accumulate dept for non-academic expenses.

University representatives said the 2018 incoming freshmen class could continue to grow as students enroll throughout the summer.