Gannon sees decrease in enrollment

Enrollment numbers are on the decline, but Gannon University remains steadfast in its ability to turn those around.

In 2011, Gannon took in its largest freshman class in the past seven years with 2,992 students, a 23 percent change from 2004 to 2011.

This year’s freshman class has 2,925 students, a 3 percent drop from last year and the first dip since 2004. According to Bill Edmondson, vice president of enrollment, the problem has less to do with Gannon and more to do with high school graduation rates.

According to statistics from the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), Edmondson explained that high school graduate numbers are not as high in this region as they used to be. Pennsylvania has had a 13 percent decrease from the early 2000s. This is partly believed to be a result of the falling economy.

In addition to low graduate numbers, the median age is also slipping in this area of the country.  The current median age is around 40 while the 15-20 age range is starting to shrink.

However, while this part of the country is starting to slip, other areas are growing. Texas has a much younger median age, and a higher graduation rate; however, Texas comes with its own hurdles of language and culture.

After the successful enrollment year in 2011, Gannon attempted to reuse its enrollment strategy, leading to a much smaller class this year. Whereas last year’s enrollment was strong in the northern Pittsburgh region, this year it had more success locally with Erie-area natives and commuters.

This brings up another issue: are commuters valuable to Gannon’s enrollment goal?

The short answer is “mostly.” Edmondson acknowledged the need to have some students who commute, but also cited that resident students have higher retention rates and optimize the campus facilities.

“The more students we have on campus, the better,” Edmondson said. He continued to explain that having empty beds in the residence halls does not fully utilize Gannon’s facilities.

Some resident students would disagree with that statement. Cristianne Johnson, a junior journalism communications major, said, “I think they’re both important. Commuters still pay tuition.”

Junior health science major Kyle Kunz argued that resident students “create” Gannon’s community and atmosphere.

“If we were all commuters, the campus would be dead on nights and weekends,” Kunz said.

Despite the decline in overall enrollment, Gannon has had a few positive numbers. Applications have gone up 20 percent since 2010 and acceptance numbers have also increased 30 percent.

University officials are working to strengthen the enrollment plan in several ways. First, faculty members are searching for new programs that will draw in different demographics of students. The plan calls for programs that are cost-efficient and appropriate for development within the academic facilities already available.

Also, Gannon has taken a more national and international approach to recruitment. If enrollment numbers cannot be found in this area of the country, Gannon will look elsewhere to attempt to find potential new students, Edmondson said.

As far as graduate numbers are concerned, the graduate programs have been eroding over the last several years. This is again believed to be because of a changing economy and the lack of faith in a graduate degree.

In addition, Gannon is looking at what buildings need remodeling. The one popping up the most is the Carneval Athletic Pavilion. The CAP has not been updated since 1984 and Edmondson explained that there are recruitment opportunities lost by not remodeling it. With an eye on future enrollment numbers, Gannon officials have begun the process of remodeling CAP.

 

KEEFER KOPCO

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