ShareThis Page
News

Pennsylvania's state-owned universities see enrollment slide

| Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016, 11:21 p.m.

Total enrollment at Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities continued to decline this fall for the sixth consecutive year.

Fall numbers released Wednesday showed enrollment fell nearly 2 percent to 104,790 students, with only three schools recording any gains. Total enrollment losses for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education since 2010 amount to about 12 percent.

Many say demographics in Pennsylvania, where the pool of new high school graduates has been shrinking since 2008, is a major factor.

“There are just fewer and fewer high school students in our catchment basin,” said David Chambers, a political science professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Once the largest school in the state system, IUP recorded the largest single-year decline of any university and has dropped 15 percent since 2000. Fall numbers at the university 60 miles east of Pittsburgh marked the first time enrollment, which averaged more than 14,000 for the last 30 years, has slipped below 13,000.

Enrollment over the past year decreased by 922 students to 12,853 — even as a per-credit tuition program designed to help boost revenue and enrollment went into effect.

Faculty members, administrators and members of the admissions staff are well aware of the numbers, said Chambers, who has taught at IUP for 29 years.

“People could just throw their hands up, but they haven't,” he said. “I'm impressed with what our admissions people are doing, but it hasn't come to fruition yet.”

The continued decline in enrollment comes in the midst of a high-profile labor dispute with members of the state system's faculty union who have worked without a contract for more than a year and are threatening to strike Oct. 19 without a new agreement.

Enrollment at four-year public universities across the nation has slowly increased overall since fall 2013, according to the National Student Clearinghouse in Herndon, Va., which tracks higher education trends.

Among Pennsylvania's state-system schools, only Cheney University in Delaware County, West Chester in suburban Philadelphia and Slippery Rock in Butler County saw enrollment growth this fall of 4.9 percent, 2.4 percent and 2.9 percent, respectively.

West Chester is the largest and fastest-growing school in the system, with a 16 percent gain since 2000 to 17,006.

At Slippery Rock, officials said new academic programs, scholarships and a vigorous recruitment campaign helped set a record enrollment of 8,881 this fall.

“This is truly a remarkable achievement, especially against a backdrop of a continuing demographic decline in high school graduates,” Slippery Rock President Cheryl Norton said in a statement.

Debra Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-320-7996 or derdley@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me