Pennsylvania State Universities See Largest Enrollment Drop In Decades
By Justin Heinze of Patch.com
Pennsylvania’s state university education system saw a historic drop in enrollment this school year, according to statistics released this week, with student numbers falling to their lowest point in more than 20 years.
There are presently 93,704 students enrolled in the state’s 14 universities, more than 2,000 less than last year and marking the 11th straight year of net enrollment decline across the state.
The 2021-22 numbers are about more than just the pandemic, as the drop this year was not markedly different than it has been in the past several years.
Some of the state’s 14 universities saw declining enrollment, but others actually saw increases, ranging from the state’s two smallest schools, Cheyney and Mansfield, seeing minuscule increases of 5 and 129, respectively, to larger schools like West Chester holding steady with an increase of 28.
But the largest state school, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, saw a decline of more than 600 enrollees from 2020-21. Edinboro lost 126; Bloomsburg lost 259.
Not since 1989 have overall enrollment numbers been so low, the statistics from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education indicate.
In previous blog posts on the subject, System Chancellor Dan Greenstein has pointed to “the pandemic (as) an accelerant into hyperdrive” of a pattern which pre-existed 2020. Specifically, he points to “instructional modality, regional location, available student services, and credentialing type” as things changing the nature of student needs and driving current trends.
“Responding to these shifts, universities and colleges across the country will undoubtedly accelerate the pace of transformation, even where responses are intended as short-term expediencies to navigate a hyper-competitive market for student enrollments,” Greenstein writes.
It’s also unclear the extent of the impact of the state’s plan to consolidate six of its universities may have on enrollment.
The proposal calls for California, Clarion and Edinboro to integrate in the western part of the state; Bloomsburg, Lock Haven and Mansfield would combine in the eastern portion. The plan has sparked controversy and criticism, and at least one state senator has asked for a two-year moratorium on implementing it.