MU, expecting 3,000 fewer students, praises quality freshmen and high retention

University of Missouri columns
University of Missouri columns University of Missouri

Facing the probability of declining freshman enrollment numbers this fall, the University of Missouri on Monday instead highlighted its retention rate in the student body — the third highest the college has ever seen.

The university’s retention rate, which measures how many freshmen from the 2015-16 school year returned to the Columbia campus, stood at 85.4 percent, according to a university news release.

In addition, the mean ACT score of this year’s freshman class tied a record high of 26, the university said. The ACT is an indicator colleges and universities use to measure the academic quality of the class. The highest possible score an individual student can get on the nationally standardized ACT exam is 36.

In the release, Interim MU Chancellor Hank Foley said, “We’re proud that our students returned to Mizzou this year in strong numbers. Our retention rate indicates that our students believe they can achieve their educational goals here.”

Earlier this summer, interim University of Missouri System President Michael Middleton said MU’s freshman enrollment outlook was “grim” for the coming school year. The Columbia campus has said it expected nearly 3,000 fewer students on campus for the 2016-17 school year, and more than half of that decline was coming out of the freshman class.

Preliminary figures show MU’s enrollment this year is 32,777, including 4,799 freshmen.

Last year MU enrollment was at nearly 35,500.

University officials have said the drop in enrollment this year is partly due to campus unrest over racial tensions last year, a demographic shift resulting in fewer high school graduates, plus increased competition from peer institutions for Midwest students.

The university has said the enrollment decline was expected to result in a $30 million drop in revenue.

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