Northwest enrollment surge boosts university, local community

By Frank Grispino

Enrollment statistics have been reported and Northwest Missouri State University’s enrollment has drastically increased to over 7,000 students. It is good news and a boon to the surrounding areas and the institution. More students bring more spending to local businesses, plus more students increase the visibility of a strong and successful state institution of higher learning as well as enhance the culture of the community. A drop in enrollment is associated with the opposite and can negatively affect all of the above.

Recently it has been reported that Missouri Western State University experienced a drop in student enrollment and this drop, in part, could result in affecting a number of factors in the operation of the institution. According to the report, the institution is confronting a $3.1 million deficit, repairs to campus, fewer scholarships and state reimbursements, and 35 positions affected including 14 faculty and staff being laid off. Attracting more students is a way in which some of these problems can be addressed.

Going to a four-day week may be an incentive used in trying to attract new students and also various restructuring methods will be implemented at Missouri Western to help with the situation. Attracting new students has become a challenge for many colleges and universities. A business must stay solvent and that includes institutions of higher learning. Student numbers are critical and unlike in previous years, higher education finds itself in a very competitive environment.

Most schools have enrollment managers and offices that devote time to attracting students.  The impression of an educational institution and the available perks play a huge part in what works best and brings more students to the campus for their education. The abilities of the recruiters to communicate these benefits can make a difference. Northwest has such an office headed by Jeremy Waldeier who deserves credit for the work he and his staff do. 

The upcoming college generation is a part of the population that has been identified as potential students and is attracted to particular experiences and events. Having championship sports programs is a good example of this. A reputation for academic excellence is another. A wide selection of available classes and a wide choice of major focus availabilities for careers are positives. Professors who are capable and truly interested in the learning and well-being of students in their classes provide another key. Costs and a plethora of scholarships play a major role. Lowering standards and reducing commonly-accepted requirements for graduation can be counter-productive.

The ambience of the campus appearance is a factor that cannot be neglected. Northwest is high on the list of campuses that display exemplary attention to the overall appeal with an arboretum, well-manicured flowers, grass, bushes and buildings. Shane Baumgart deserves kudos for tasteful, beautiful, and perfectly-attended surroundings which increase the attraction and image of the buildings and grounds. This provides a pleasant environment for students. In addition, which is hard to quantify, most current students at Northwest frequently pass on to potential students why they came and why they stayed; “It feels like home.” Finally, alumni are key in relating to prospective students their experiences while they were students and include later job availability and successful careers, in part, because they chose Northwest Missouri State University.

Competent leadership is needed at all levels to coordinate and operate the entire institution focusing on students who have chosen Northwest as their college and to those who yet have not. President John Jasinski is the overall leader of all of this, and he and all others in their areas of responsibility deserve credit for the successes for a record enrollment. Of course, the support of the board of regents is paramount. It’s obvious to me that student enrollment is hitting on all cylinders.

“Once a Bearcat always a Bearcat” cannot be said unless one becomes a Bearcat first. A commitment from the entire campus team will keep students coming to the campus and the Maryville community.