Pacific University’s 2017 fall enrollment numbers were officially released Sept. 15 and unsurprisingly, the total number of Forest Grove campus undergraduates came in below last year’s mark. According to Mark Ankeny, vice president of enrollment management, across the country, many schools have seen a decline in undergraduate enrollment numbers
“The overall university enrollment has kind of leveled off the last two years,” Ankeny said. “This is kind of a trend that we’ve seen across the country, so it’s not like we are any different from other schools.”
The total number of undergraduates at Pacific this fall came out to be 1,734, which is slightly down compared to 2016 which saw an enrollment number of 1,788 and in the fall of 2015 Pacific reached a high of 1,829. Though the undergraduate numbers are down as compared to years past, Ankeny said Pacific’s graduate school’s enrollment numbers are rising each year, which is also a nationwide trend.
When looking at the lower numbers for undergraduate enrollment this year, there are a few factors to look at. Ankeny points to the 2008 recession and the trend of students looking to get into fields which provide stability right away after college.
“The schools in the area that have been growing in undergrad enrollment, or continue to grow, have engineering and nursing programs because those grew in popularity after the recession in 2008,” Ankeny said. “People saw that those programs put you immediately into a good paying job out of school.”
It is no secret Pacific brings in a significant number of students from the state of Hawaii, which helps contribute to the overall enrollment numbers. And over the past few years more schools have broadened their recruitment to Hawaii, making it more difficult for Pacific to bring in their quota of students from Hawaii.
“Historically, we’ve had the highest percentage of students from Hawaii at Pacific in terms of school size,” Karen Dunston, assistant vice president of enrollment undergraduate admissions said. “We like to hit anywhere from 85 to 110 students from Hawaii. We were in that range this year, but we would’ve liked to have had more.”
An issue plaguing not just Pacific, but also other smaller schools in the area is the topic of financial aid and student loan packages.
“We allowed students to fill out their financial aid forms starting in October this year instead of waiting until January and that’s a brand new shift in the admissions and enrollment cycle,” Dunston said. “This year I think the new FAFSA date really influenced families looking at how much financial aid they were going to get and how much they wanted to spend on college and they’ve made some decisions based on that, as opposed to where the student really wants to go.”
Because of this, Dunston said there is a small committee that has been adjusting the way Pacific gives out financial aid and the way they put together student loan packages, in hopes they will help students of all financial backgrounds in the future. Lower enrollment numbers typically brings about talk of budget management and whether or not cuts will be made.
According to Ankeny the university budget is built around the different programs offered and the areas that may be significantly down just have to be careful in their spending throughout the year, in order to keep the whole university budget healthy.
“Rather than looking at it as budget cuts it’s more about right sizing the spending expenditures to a declining enrollment,” Ankeny said. “It’s like when you have a family budget and your income goes down, you’d have to change your expenditures in order to live within the new income.”
Currently there are no plans set in stone for any kind of cut backs in spending, but the different departments will be evaluating the budget as the year goes along.