After Pennsylvania gadget mergers, general enrollment is down — however first-year numbers are up

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Enrollment continues to fall in Pennsylvania’s community of state-owned universities, prompting doubts that the gadget’s debatable merger of six establishments into two will in truth treatment its entrenched monetary issues.

The Pennsylvania State Gadget of Upper Schooling’s enrollment slid via about 4.6%, from virtually 88,700 scholars ultimate 12 months to about 84,600 in fall 2022, proceeding a decade-plus decline. 

The drop comes greater than a 12 months after the gadget voted to consolidate two units of establishments: California, Clarion and Edinboro universities merged to create Pennsylvania Western College, and Bloomsburg, Lock Haven and Mansfield universities turned into Commonwealth College. The mergers turned into legitimate in July of this 12 months.

PASSHE Chancellor Daniel Greenstein has argued the 2 merged establishments will lend a hand draw in a contingent of untapped scholars, together with new grownup beginners. He previous this 12 months set an enrollment goal of including 18,000 scholars via an unspecified date.

However that objective turns out an increasing number of out of achieve.

Probably the most pronounced enrollment drop this autumn took place at one of the crucial two new consolidated establishments, Pennsylvania Western College, or PennWest. It skilled a just about 12% scholar decline, compared to the 3 universities that had been merged to shape it.

PASSHE officers didn’t provide the enrollment figures as an indication of doom and gloom. They as an alternative interested by a upward push in first-year scholar enrollment systemwide, which jumped via 7%.

The gadget enrolled 15,649 first-year scholars in fall 2022 as opposed to 14,631 the former 12 months. Its first-year enrollment in fall 2020 was once 16,180 scholars.

Gadget spokesperson Cody Jones stated in an e-mail {that a} “multitude of things cross into any enrollment stage, whether or not that be emerging or falling.” Pennsylvania faces inhabitants declines and lowered quantity of highschool graduates, he stated.

“However if you happen to take a look at the information, that is the primary 12 months in a decade when now we have observed an general build up in first-time newbies,” Jones stated. “So the curve is bending, and we’re positive about our long run.”

The gadget’s school union and better training mavens stay skeptical.

“The elephant within the room is that the campuses are hemorrhaging scholars,” stated Andrew Koricich, the next training professor at Appalachian State College who has studied the gadget widely.

A grim image

PASSHE suffers from developments troubling public upper ed at massive: traditionally feeble state funding, a shrinking pool of highschool graduates and a saturated school market. 

Blended, those components have spelled hassle for the gadget, which has observed a couple of 25% drop in scholars during the last decade.

The coronavirus pandemic additionally compounded the gadget’s troubles, and it continues to batter the field as an entire. Nationwide undergraduate scholar enrollment dropped virtually 5% from spring 2021 to spring 2022, consistent with a Might document from the Nationwide Pupil Clearinghouse Analysis Heart.

The enrollment information PASSHE supplied has holes, which involved Koricich. He famous the gadget didn’t document sure detailed statistics for PennWest like what number of nontraditional scholars it enrolls. 

Jones, the gadget spokesperson, stated Wednesday he may just no longer provide an explanation for the lacking information issues.

Koricich stated the information paints a grim image for the gadget.

Enrollment at its greatest establishment, West Chester College, shrank via about 2%, or 344 fewer scholars from the former 12 months. Its general enrollment is 17,296 scholars.

For years, West Chester, positioned in a rich suburb of Philadelphia, has been the one PASSHE establishment to look constant enrollment enlargement. 

A few of the 10 PASSHE universities, simplest two — Cheyney and East Stroudsburg — grew enrollment. And East Stroudsburg’s headcount was once necessarily flat with 16 extra scholars, or a nil.3% build up, for a complete of five,152 scholars. 

Cheyney, the country’s oldest traditionally Black establishment that at one level was once getting ready to shutting down, were given 64 new scholars, for a complete of 706. This was once a just about 10% build up. 

The most important losses took place at PennWest and Shippensburg College, which shed greater than 500 scholars, a nearly 9% decline for a complete 5,164 scholars. 

Commonwealth’s enrollment dropped about 3%, or 375 scholars. It now has 12,093 scholars. 

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