Southern’s enrollment drops

While other area schools are experiencing record spikes in enrollment, Missouri Southern’s numbers are dropping.

Statistics from the fall census show a loss of 329 students with a total of 2,375 fewer credit hours.

The recently instigated payment policies are one of the changes cited as contributing to the loss of students.

“We’ve had some major changes in our payment policy, I think that has had an effect on the students who didn’t meet the deadlines for getting their financial aid paperwork in,” said Derek Skaggs, director of enrollment services. “I think there’s an economic issue as well, especially with our students who are part time and may not have the funds available to get on the payment plan.”

Recent cuts to the budget of the institute of International Studies are also being blamed for the drop as affordable international travel has been highly promoted in the past.

“That’s one of the things that we’ve really promoted in the past few years – the affordable tuition, and the international mission,” Skaggs said. “Those have been the major things in our messages.

“There are a lot of prospective students who come to visit and they are attracted by the study abroad opportunities.”

Students both current and prospective are also feeling the pressure of fewer study abroad opportunities including those who sought out Southern for its emphasis on affordable travel.

“It’s an issue that effects all of the 5000 students,” said Student Senate president and international studies major Ben Hinkle, “With such extreme cuts we’ve told thousands of students ‘you’re out of luck,'”

While Southern’s numbers are down, Pittsburg State University, Crowder College and Missouri State University all announced record increases for the fall 2008 semester. Crowder credits affordability and easily accessible campuses while PSU attributes the rise to the recruitment of minorities.

“It’s a combination of quality and cost, and convenience, our largest increases have actually been at our sites in Nevada, Webb City and Cassville,” said Jim Riggs, director of enrollment at Crowder.

With a strategic plan being established and more ‘Southern branding’ being implemented, Skaggs hopes to see improvements in both recruitment and retention.

“We need the support of everyone who is part of the Missouri Southern family including current students, faculty and staff,” he said. “We need everyone working together to tell people about the great institution we have.”