FSU undergraduate enrollment declines by 12% from fall 2020

By Ashlyn Kelly

News Editor

Total undergraduate enrollment for the Fall 2021 Semester is 3,099, down 12% since fall 2020, when 3,384 students were enrolled, according to the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s 2021 Early Enrollment Report for Massachusetts Public Colleges & Universities.

Of Framingham State’s eight sister institutions, Fitchburg State University lost the same percentage as FSU and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts lost 19%, according to the site.

The other state universities either lost a lower percentage of students or gained students between fall 2020 and fall 2021. 

Total undergraduate enrollment for the Fall 2021 Semester is down 20% since fall 2019, according to the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s 2021 Early Enrollment Report for Massachusetts Public Colleges & Universities.

Of Framingham State’s eight sister institutions, only Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts lost a larger percentage of enrolled students over the same time period. Its total undergraduate enrollment has declined by approximately 35%, according to the site.

FSU Fall 2021 first-time freshman enrollment has declined by 5% from the Fall 2020 Semester and 25% from fall 2019, according to the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s 2021 Early Enrollment Report for Massachusetts Public Colleges & Universities. 

Only 584 first-time freshman students enrolled for the Fall 2021 Semester, while 615 enrolled for the Fall 2020 Semester, and 776 for the Fall 2019 Semester, according to the site.

Fitchburg State University lost the largest percentage of enrolled first-time freshman students of FSU’s sister institutions from 2020 to 2021. Its first-time freshman enrollment declined by approximately 11%, according to the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s 2021 Early Enrollment Report for Massachusetts Public Colleges & Universities.

Between 2019 and 2021, of Framingham State’s eight sister institutions, only Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts lost a larger percentage of first-time freshmen. Its total first-time freshman population has declined by approximately 41%, according to the site.

Lorretta Holloway, vice president of enrollment and student development, said the number of enrolled undergraduate degree-seeking students is actually 3,035 – not 3,099 as was reported by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education. 

The decline in the current first-time freshman enrollment numbers is due to the decline of “college-going high-school graduates,” according to Holloway. 

“Some of that happens when the economy is pretty good,” said Holloway. “[It’s a] real decision about am I going to go to college if I can go right out of high school and make $50,000 a year with benefits?”

She added the cost of living in the surrounding areas can also have an effect on enrollment as well. 

“If you look at the MetroWest area, it’s one of the areas that actually has increased in standard of living tremendously over the last decade,” said Holloway.

According to Holloway, when families have more money, they have more school options to pick from and may want their children to go elsewhere. 

She also discussed new strategies the University is using to recruit students. 

Holloway said she is not focused on “just recruiting students and retaining students” but instead “recruiting students and families and retaining students and families.”

She said, “We really want people to see how engaging our faculty members are and that this is this place where people are actually going to be nurtured and people are going to know you.

“It’s also really getting out there and talking about who we really are,” added Holloway. 

She said the University is focused on highlighting what is “distinctive” – for example, being a “regional public” with majors in food and nutrition and fashion design and retailing. 

“We had two of our students on Project Runway,” said Holloway. “That’s a major deal for a small regional public.”

Charity Marino, a junior fashion design and retailing major, said Framingham State was the best choice for her because she could save money while “cultivating and creating a better design portfolio.

“A lot of people are interested in fashion but weren’t able to learn the tools of the trade prior to University applications,” said Marino. “Unlike design schools, Framingham will accept them with open arms and do their best to educate them.”

Bridget Eddlem, a senior American Sign Language major, said, “Framingham State is the only state school in Massachusetts with an American Sign Language Interpreting program. 

“I wanted to save money and based on my observations, it was the same education as I’d get at a private school but for half the cost,” Eddlem added. 

Sofia Wilson, a freshman English major, said, “I came here because it was really cheap.

“Now that I’m here, the professors are very interesting. It’s very quaint,” Wilson added. 

Will Nee, a junior communication, media, and performance major, said, “When I was searching for a college to attend, I came to accepted students day and got a tour of the campus and I immediately knew it was a perfect fit for me.”

Jillian Carbone, a senior elementary education and liberal studies major, said she toured many schools and “didn’t love any of them.

“FSU was the first school I toured and one of the two that I liked enough to apply,” said Carbone. “To be honest, I wasn’t super excited about coming here because I didn’t feel like other people who found their ‘dream school,’ but after being here, I’m glad I chose this school.

“The people are what make it special to me,” she added.