UW-System enrollment numbers decline - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

UW-System enrollment numbers decline

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Menomonie (WQOW)- College students and their parents want to know whether the candidates can help make higher education more affordable.  Tuition keeps going up and that may be one reason why enrollment numbers are down in the UW-System, but there are others.

"We've been studying the demographics for many, many years," says UW-Stout Interim Provost Mary Hopkins-Best.

Enrollment numbers across the board are down this year in the UW-System; all universities except UW-Whitewater, which set a record.  UW-Eau Claire and UW-Stout are both down about one percent.  UW-River Falls saw the biggest drop, down about 4 percent.  So what's behind the lower numbers?  One reason is a declining birthrate that began about 18 years ago.

"We track years in advance to know the high school demographics and Eau Claire is a very traditional campus.  So we really pay attention to those 18 year olds," explains UW-Eau Claire Admissions Director Kris Anderson.  "We've seen some yearly decreases."

The universities also blame a tough economy and increased competition from tech schools.

UW-Stout says it's gone over the numbers and realizes in the next couple years, high school graduation numbers in the area aren't getting any better.  So the school is focusing its efforts on looking at other ways to bring students to the college.

UW-Stout has upped its recruiting; targeting three groups more than ever: transfer students, international students, and online students.

"We've seen an increase in our number of online students and an increase in international students," smiles Hopkins-Best. "We had anticipated that we were going to need to increase the enrollment of other segments of the population to off-set the decreasing number of high school graduates."

"Two years ago, we were at a record high of 11,400 students.  We were actually a little too big at that point.  Last year, we brought it down to about 11,200 and this year we are still around 11,000 students; and that's really where we need to be," says Anderson.

UW-System schools will be discussing the enrollment numbers at the Board of Regents meeting Thursday at UW-Stout.

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