University of Missouri projects low freshman enrollment

University of Missouri officials expect an entering class of fewer than 5,000 students this fall on the Columbia campus, the fewest since fall 2006.
University of Missouri officials expect an entering class of fewer than 5,000 students this fall on the Columbia campus, the fewest since fall 2006. File photo by The Associated Press

The University of Missouri will have the smallest class of new students this fall since 2006, according to recent projections that show the loss of new enrollments could be higher than previous predictions.

Projections in February were that freshman enrollment could be down as much as 900 and the overall campus loss would be about 1,500. University officials at the time were predicting a $32 million deficit, translating to hundreds of positions affected.

With new projections in, Christian Basi, university spokesman, said it may be Friday before a new dollar impact is determined.

“We have known for months that our freshman class would be smaller than last fall, and with both resident and nonresident deposits lagging well behind last year’s numbers, this May 1 report confirms that we will have an entering class of fewer than 5,000,” said Barbara Rupp, interim vice provost for enrollment management.

Rupp said that as of last week, more than 4,700 students had paid a $300 enrollment deposit, which was refundable through Sunday.

That’s a more than 22 percent decline from this school year’s total of nearly 6,200 students.

This fall’s enrollment will include about 4,800 new freshmen if the projected pattern holds. The university enrolled just more than that number in fall 2006.

After earlier projections in February, Interim Chancellor Hank Foley instructed campus divisions to cut their budgets by 5 percent, including a hiring and wages freeze.

This year’s total enrollment is nearly 35,500.

Basi said the total decline from this year is difficult to determine with the potential loss of new freshmen now at more than 1,400.

In January, university officials said they believed that race-related protests that erupted on the Columbia campus in November and put MU under a national spotlight contributed to a projected drop in enrollment.

The latest numbers show that African-American applications have decreased by 69 and deposits have decreased by 214 from one year ago.

But Hispanic applications have increased by 33 from this time last year. Deposits from Hispanic students, though, are down by 71.

Applications and deposits from international and transfer students also are down.

This year’s total freshman class of 7,600 includes students who are in their second year who did not have 30 credit hours when the fall semester began as well as students who transferred with credit.

“A lot of this is asking us to speculate right now,” Basi said. “We are focused on working toward retention rates to make sure students are successful here.”

Basi said the university message to prospective students and their parents is that “our mission is going on unabated.”

While donations to the university dropped off in November and December, Basi said, donors still committed more than $65 million in donations since the kickoff of MU’s comprehensive fundraising campaign in October. And MU researchers received commitments of more than $37 million in grant dollars from the federal government and nearly $19 million in nonfederal grant dollars.

“We have these wonderful things happening,” Basi said. “The problem is we are having a difficult time getting that message out.”

Mará Rose Williams contributed to this report.