FSU begins academic year with smallest freshman class since 2010

[Brittany Cormier]

The University began the fall semester with 104 fewer students in the freshman class, according to Lorretta Holloway, vice president for enrollment and student development.

According to Holloway, 6,204 students applied to FSU and 4,021 were accepted. Of that total, 749 freshmen chose to attend FSU.

In 2015, 4,803 students applied, 3,401 were accepted and 855 chose to attend the University.

Jeremy Spencer, dean of enrollment management, said FSU saw an increase of 29 percent in applications due to the University using the Common Application for the first time.

Spencer said he supports the use of the Common Application because it “aligns with our desire to foster Inclusive Excellence at FSU.  We decided to join the Common Application when membership requirements shifted to include a commitment to the pursuit of access, equity and integrity in the college admissions process.”

Holloway addressed the enrollment numbers at the All University meeting discussing fiscal realities on Nov. 2.

The low enrollment numbers are partially attributed to the decrease in high school graduates. She said the number of high school graduates “just keeps going down.”

In the next five years, there will be a decline of 9 to 16 percent of high school graduates from public schools and a 15 percent decline from private schools, said Holloway.

Because states like New Hampshire and Vermont are seeing a “similar decline” in graduates, it makes it harder for the University to “poach” students from other areas in New England, she said.

These factors, paired with the competitive nature of college recruitment, caused the decline, said Holloway.

The University is working to expand its presence in other countries such as China and Bermuda to recruit international students.  FSU will have a presence at the Bermuda College Fair, she said.

She added because of the declining rates of graduation and college attendance the newer students coming to the University will have a “higher level of need,” both financially and academically, than most students currently attending FSU.

Holloway said the low enrollment this year “is going to be the new normal.” FSU, along with other state universities in New England, will not see a hike in attendance.

Other universities, such as the University of Maine, have combated low enrollment numbers by offering in-state tuition to out-of-state students. FSU has considered this option but “we would have to do more cost analysis before going further,” said Holloway.

She added the University loses “basically $10,000,” for “every student who we don’t have.”

According to Holloway, that additional money could be put toward other projects such as the renovations of Crocker Hall and hiring more Supplemental Instructors (SI) leaders for classes that currently do not have them.

Holloway said due to the low enrollment, the hours SI leaders work had to be reduced from 10 to eight and the University had to “prioritize” which classes received supplemental instruction.

According to Ann Caso, associate director of institutional research, there are currently 5,977 students attending FSU with 4,337 undergraduate and 1,640 graduate students.

The office of Institutional Research reported 6,398 students enrolled in the fall of 2015.

While the University has seen a decline in student enrollment, the population of minority students has risen from 26 to 30 percent. The male student population has risen from 36 to 39 percent of the population and female students have decreased to 61 percent of the population from 64 percent.

Sophomore Hailey Small said, “We need to capitalize on what makes us attractive as a school. Advertising focused on affordability would definitely help to access those who are paying their way through college. … I think that if FSU wants to up its enrollment, its got to create a consistent and apparent identity for itself that is marketable to high school students, and is enough to motivate them toward reaching for this goal of college acceptance.”

According to Linda Vaden-Goad, provost, vice president for academic affairs, the low enrollment has not affected the number of professors hired for the 2016-17 academic year.

She said, “This fall, we hired five new tenure-track faculty. … We have a hiring plan and we work to keep our ratio of students-to-faculty steady so we can offer the kind of support that is needed.”

Vaden-Goad added the University has made a “series of changes” to determine which courses to run each semester and how many seats will be needed in each class.

She said department heads can determine which classes students need to take based on their past course schedule and classes are run based on those numbers.

Vaden-Goad said, “The size of the schedule is less important than how well the schedule fits the needs of the students.  Our goal is to steadily increase our ability to construct the schedule that is best for making academic progress.”

The decrease in freshman students has not negatively impacted First Year Programs, Vaden-Goad said.

She added, “I actually believe that we increase the number of extracurricular programs offered each year to all students. The faculty and staff are very engaged at this University, and they are very interested in creating a lively and invigorating campus community and climate.”

Vaden-Goad said as part of the University’s Re-Imagining the First Year program, students who are unable to complete a course due to an emergency will have a “very clear pathway to successfully completing the work that remains.”

She urged students to “help grow your group. Help the new students you meet have a good experience – help them meet new people, invite them to join clubs you enjoy, attend events with you, or even eat a meal with you.”

Freshman Pat McCarter said the University has done a great job preparing him for the academic pressures at FSU. “Many of my professors are supportive and stress the fact that they have office hours and stress the fact that there are peer mentors available to students.”

He also said he enjoys programs “almost every night” held by Resident Assistants and clubs on campus.

Freshman Sam Ross said her transition to the University has been “easy” so she hasn’t had to utilize the academic resources on campus, but “knowing that they’re there is certainly comforting.”

Ross said she attended FSU because of the affordable tuition as many of the other schools she was interested in were “very expensive.”

Vaden-Goad said FSU has already begun recruiting students for next year, as well as making sure the students attending the University now are “successful and able to stay.”

She added, “If the students we recruit find themselves having a great experience, they remain.”