With news that enrollment numbers at universities nationwide are down 16.1 percent, Iowa State explained issues they have been facing with enrollment in their first full COVID-19 semester along with a comparative look at other regional universities.
With multiple attributing factors, the largest can be seen from COVID-19. With the question of safety still in the air, a sizable chunk of new and old students elected not to attend this semester.
Other factors include a decline in enrollment from community colleges around Iowa this year. One of the pioneers of Iowa State’s Admissions Partnership Program, Laura Doering, associate vice president of enrollment management, acknowledged a trickling effect that lowered the community college numbers' effect on Iowa State.
With a reported decline of 1,566 students this year, Iowa State continued its current three-year trend of declining enrollment numbers.
In comparison to other regional schools, such as the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa, Iowa State falls between the two in enrollment drop. The University of Iowa touts an enrollment total for their fall 2020 semester at 30,488, a 2,087 drop from fall 2019. The University of Northern Iowa saw a smaller drop of 975 students down from fall 2019’s total of 10,497 students.
While there has been a drop in numbers for fall 2020, Doering proudly announced this semester shows the highest retention rate of freshman than ever before. Increasing from 86.9 percent from 2019 to 88.5 percent in 2020, a small victory like this is very important for morale.
“We also recruit internationally, and we know that with COVID and with these travel bans and difficulty getting visas … we know that there are challenges that exist now in recruiting international students,” Doering said.
Trying to be adaptive, Iowa State acknowledges the potential pitfalls for international students. Between COVID-19, an upcoming election and a slew of policies that have been making it harder for international students to attend universities like Iowa State, there is an expected potential drop in enrollment numbers for international students based on the outcome of the election.
Attempting to be helpful to those international students who are affected by the current circumstances in the most extreme ways, Iowa State has a special hybrid program for 53 international students who wish to attend Iowa State in person but are stuck in their home country.
The adaptive strategy does not stop there. With the fall 2020 semester seeming more experimental than anything, Iowa State has been learning a lot about how to implement online courses and what students want as a whole.
“We have learned that students can be successful face-to-face, in hybrid [classes] or in completely online classes," Doering said. “We have also learned that Iowa State students want to be on campus and that many like to be on campus.”
Acknowledging that Iowa State is traditional in how its students like to operate, Doering expects online classes to find some new growth in either quality or acceptance as we go further into COVID-revolving semesters.