Despite fears that a global pandemic would keep students from continuing their educational pursuits, Slippery Rock University announced it had an increase of 70 students in overall enrollment this fall from the previous year.
For a fifth year, SRU has posted enrollment numbers over 8,800. The 8,876 students enrolled this semester fall just 19 students shy of the 2017 enrollment record. The numbers are recorded on the 15th day of classes, which is a national and state standard for official counts.
Even with an increase in overall enrollment, undergraduate numbers have continued to decline since 2017. The loss of undergraduate students has been no more than 100 in any of the past four years and have been offset by increases in graduate students.
SRU’s 1,461 graduate students are an increase of 125 students from the previous year. The record increase is the largest offset of undergraduate losses since 2018.
“The fact that our enrollment is nearly the same in a year with such incredible challenges is a testament to the strength of the SRU community,” said Amanda Yale, chief enrollment officer. “Our students have shown a dedication to their education, and our faculty and staff are dedicated to student success. There will continue to be challenges and unknowns ahead but the people at SRU are ready to embrace the future together.”
While SRU President William Behre said that increasing the enrollment of graduate students is a sustainable financial model, the university would like to reverse the declining undergraduate numbers. Going forward, the university will look at retention of its undergraduate students along with recruiting students who would normally look at the private universities in the area and not SRU, Behre said.
As for the plan of increasing the university’s graduate programs to attract more students, Behre gave the credit to his predecessors for predicting that as the best way forward.
“They saw what was happening with undergraduate students and they built the graduate programs in some ways as a hedge against the loss of undergraduates,” Behre said. “It was actually great strategy.”
Despite enrollment numbers up from the previous year, the 120,349 credit hours is another decrease for the university. While the university has seen a decrease of 2,200 credit hours since 2017, Behre said it does not necessarily mean a decrease in revenue for the university.
Since the university’s largest decreases are coming from undergraduate and they pay a flat rate for full-time enrollment, to equate a decrease in credit hours with a loss of revenue would be a misconception without looking at where the losses and gains are coming from, Behre said.
At SRU, students pay the same tuition rate, $3,858 while enrolled in 12 to 18 credits a semester.
As for the demographics of the university, out-of-state students make up 9.6% of SRU students. 140 of those students are freshman, a 31% increase over last year’s freshman class.
The university also added 79 students to its body that identify as either Black, Hispanic, two or more races and nonresident aliens.