Online enrollment jumps, student numbers drop

Online enrollment jumps, student numbers drop

Online enrollment jumps, student numbers drop

Amye Buckley

When the numbers came in for fall enrollment, the overall number of students at Missouri Southern had decreased, but more students are enrolling in online classes.

Last year’s fall enrollment stood at 5,675 and dropped by 82 students this year to 5,593. Dr. Delores Honey, vice president for assessment and institutional research ,says that, overall, the drop is insignificant.

“1.4 percent is so small, it’s almost like you’re bouncing back and forth up a little down a little but within a confidence band of that number,” Honey said. “It really is very, very close, it’s hard to even call it a big drop, but of course we’d like for it to be going up, but just the fact that it’s not going down that much.”

Southern faces stiff competition, not only from other universities, but with local community colleges.

“You know, we frankly are competing against A-plus, and the A-plus program allows students who go to community colleges to go for free,” Honey said.

As an institution Southern cannot match the scholarship funds available through the state program, but as the numbers increase at schools like nearby Crowder College she hopes to see the numbers of transfer students rise.

Honey says they are still trying to analyze the slide, but despite the overall drop there are students not accounted for in the numbers.

“We have a phenomenon, which is not new to us or different from any other school, but we have the stop-out situation. We measure that with our graduates each year – we look back and see how many stayed enrolled the entire way through and then we look at stop-outs,” Honey said. “We have students who go a semester or two, and family or work or something keeps them from registering, but they always come back.”

The come and go students are not counted as first-time freshmen or transfers, only in the overall head count.

Almost 350 more students are enrolled in classes this fall. Numbers rose form 2,283 enrollments last fall to 2,632 this semester. This includes any student who has taken classes online, whether they are exclusive Internet students or have signed up for only one class.

Honey, attributes the growth in online class attendance to an increase in computer literacy both in Southern’s service area and through gradual introduction of computer components such as Blackboard into the regular curriculum.

“It really is a recruiting tool, if you will, for Lifelong Learning classes,” Honey said. “And I think that’s just the wave of the future.”

For students who live some distance from campus, work full-time or have a family to care for Honey believes the online classes will give the flexibility to manage their studies around their other responsibilities.

“Of course they miss that interaction and that’s kind of hard to replace,” Honey said.

Southern instructors are rising to the occasion as Internet instruction becomes a growing trend across the nation. Building a strong Internet presence is only part of the new, college experience.

“So all of that paradigm shift is making the approach to education so different. And it, it really does determine where you put your dollars and we prioritize some of those things,” Honey said. “But I don’t think we’ll ever be in a place where all of our students will be on the Internet. I still think there is a value in seeing that teacher, interacting with students on a personal basis.”