Pacific University isn’t known for intense college rivalries, but its College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) is no stranger to stiff competition.
“The total number of college-aged students is down in the United States and that’s our biggest challenge with enrollment right now; just how many students are out there,” said CAS Dean Sarah Phillips.
With a plateauing pool of high school graduates preparing to enter college across the United States, Pacific, — along with every other university in the nation — is met with the difficult task of not only letting eager students know it exists, but that its institution provides a better fit than others in the area.
“We’re doing fine and we’re enrolling fantastic students in terms of GPA and those sort of factors, so we’ve not had any issues,” Phillips said. “But nationally, that overall number is down which means we’re working harder.”
CAS’s Forest Grove undergraduate campus projected 424 new students for the academic year, and came up short by a small margin of 11, topping out at 417 new students total. According to Phillips this margin is too small to make any large impact on campus, especially with retention rates proving better than projected.
“Our freshman to sophomore retention was higher than we expected so all in all we should balance out just fine,” says Phillips.
Transfer students on the same campus nearly met their projected goals as well, falling just one student short of 100 total. These statistics may appear lower than that of last year’s enrollment, but this is due at least in part to the inflation of transfer students caused by nearby university closures.
“This year’s numbers — the total will look smaller than last years but it’s entirely because of the Art Institute and Marylhurst,” Phillips believes. “So what we planned for this year was a ‘normal’ enrollment minus two major schools closing.”
By studying recent enrollment patterns, environmental factors and new program competition when completing projections, Phillips and other administrators also made the decision to convert on-campus dorm rooms in Clark Hall into offices and additional student activity space.
“So we’re at a higher occupancy rate this year, and of course some of that’s because those rooms are now offline,” Phillips said.
“And then some of it’s because of all the new apartments that opened up in the area last year aren’t so new and available; we were definitely affected by that.”
Feeling less of that housing pressure now, transforming dorm space in Clark to house other campus necessities made sense to the CAS team.
Phillips does stress that although Clark is no longer serving as a residence space at the moment, the college is still dedicated to having students live on campus.
“If all of a sudden we had 100 extra students who needed to live on campus we would make that happen,” Phillips says. “We’re committed to having our students live on campus and we’ll do what we need to do to make that possible — it’s just a balancing act and there’s nothing too permanent about these changes.”
Enrollment numbers’ underlying financial impacts are still currently being analyzed by the university as it prepares to look at the college’s budget.
Preliminary numbers, though not available at the time this newspaper was sent in to print, may be crunched by late this week.