HomeNewsAfter Pennsylvania system mergers, overall enrollment is down —...

After Pennsylvania system mergers, overall enrollment is down — but 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 system’s controversial merger of six establishments into two will truly treatment its entrenched monetary issues.

The Pennsylvania State System of Larger Training’s enrollment slid by about 4.6%, from nearly 88,700 college students final 12 months to about 84,600 in fall 2022, persevering with a decade-plus decline. 

The drop comes greater than a 12 months after the system 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 grew to become Commonwealth College. The mergers grew to become official in July of this 12 months.

PASSHE Chancellor Daniel Greenstein has argued the 2 merged establishments will assist entice a contingent of untapped college students, together with new grownup learners. He earlier this 12 months set an enrollment goal of including 18,000 college students by an unspecified date.

However that aim appears more and more out of attain.

Essentially the most pronounced enrollment drop this fall occurred at one of many two new consolidated establishments, Pennsylvania Western College, or PennWest. It skilled a virtually 12% scholar decline, compared to the three universities that have been merged to kind it.

PASSHE officers didn’t current the enrollment figures as an indication of doom and gloom. They as an alternative centered on an increase in first-year scholar enrollment systemwide, which jumped by 7%.

The system enrolled 15,649 first-year college students in fall 2022 versus 14,631 the earlier 12 months. Its first-year enrollment in fall 2020 was 16,180 college students.

System spokesperson Cody Jones mentioned in an e-mail {that a} “multitude of things go into any enrollment degree, whether or not that be rising or falling.” Pennsylvania faces inhabitants declines and decreased quantity of highschool graduates, he mentioned.

“However for those who have a look at the info, that is the primary 12 months in a decade when now we have seen an general improve in first-time freshmen,” Jones mentioned. “So the curve is bending, and we’re optimistic about our future.”

The system’s college union and better schooling consultants stay skeptical.

“The elephant within the room is that the campuses are hemorrhaging college students,” mentioned Andrew Koricich, the next schooling professor at Appalachian State College who has studied the system extensively.

A grim image

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

Mixed, these elements have spelled hassle for the system, which has seen a few 25% drop in college students during the last decade.

The coronavirus pandemic additionally compounded the system’s troubles, and it continues to batter the sector as an entire. Nationwide undergraduate scholar enrollment dropped nearly 5% from spring 2021 to spring 2022, in keeping with a Could report from the Nationwide Scholar Clearinghouse Analysis Middle.

The enrollment information PASSHE offered has holes, which involved Koricich. He famous the system didn’t report sure detailed statistics for PennWest like what number of nontraditional college students it enrolls. 

Jones, the system spokesperson, mentioned Wednesday he couldn’t clarify the lacking information factors.

Koricich mentioned the info paints a grim image for the system.

Enrollment at its largest establishment, West Chester College, shrank by about 2%, or 344 fewer college students from the earlier 12 months. Its complete enrollment is 17,296 college students.

For years, West Chester, situated in a rich suburb of Philadelphia, has been the one PASSHE establishment to see constant enrollment progress. 

Among the many 10 PASSHE universities, solely two — Cheyney and East Stroudsburg — grew enrollment. And East Stroudsburg’s headcount was basically flat with 16 extra college students, or a 0.3% improve, for a complete of 5,152 college students. 

Cheyney, the nation’s oldest traditionally Black establishment that at one level was getting ready to shutting down, obtained 64 new college students, for a complete of 706. This was a virtually 10% improve. 

The biggest losses occurred at PennWest and Shippensburg College, which shed greater than 500 college students, an nearly 9% decline for a complete 5,164 college students. 

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

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