UMD's enrollment shrinking pains

BY KAHLA STATEMA | The Statesman UMD’s undergraduate enrollment has been declining each year. This semester, the enrollment is 8,929 students, the lowest enrollment has been in 10 years.

Mary Keenan, assistant vice chancellor of academic affairs and co-chair of the Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM) Committee, said that the declining enrollment of potential high school graduates is a contributing factor to UMD’s low enrollment.

High schools across Minnesota have seen a five percent decrease in enrollment over the last eight years.

“That same dip is happening across the midwest,” Keenan said. “What does this mean related to our enrollment landscape? Everybody is trying to steal students from other people’s states, basically.”

Nearly 28 percent of high school graduates in Minnesota go to college out of state.

Low enrollment is not the only problem that UMD is facing. Poor retention rates are another contributing factor.

Retention rates refer to the percentage of freshman students who return back for their sophomore year.

According to the SEM website, UMD’s goal is to increase first-to-second year retention by 80 percent by fall 2018. Chancellor Black said the raise in retention rates is necessary.

In the meeting it was stated that about 35 percent of each freshman class will leave UMD before they complete their four-year degree.

Chancellor Black said students leave UMD for a variety of reasons.

“Sometimes the best advice that we can give students is that they would be better served going somewhere else, because sometimes students are not academically ready for UMD or sometimes they’re not at a maturity level where they’re ready for UMD or for college,” Black said.

Black emphasised that it is up to the faculty and staff to come together to help UMD students.

“Our staff are critical in making sure that students have the support they need,” Black said. “Students are telling us that interactions, positive interactions, with faculty members are one of the most important things to them.”

The SEM subcommittee supports the framework for student retention, otherwise known as “the 4-pros,”  a tool designed to identify any actions that may lead to enhanced student success.

The 4-pros framework has UMD focusing on both persistence as well as progress and also challenges the university to consider how all students engage with UMD.

The four “pros” are profile, progress, process and promise.

Profile focuses on increasing the entering student’s profile and the institution’s profile. A UMD student’s profile includes their academics, finances and demographics.

Progress looks to ensure a student’s academic success and ability to complete their degree in a timely manner.

Process is improving and accommodating student services and experiences.

Promise means to ensure that that all students’ experiences are consistent with what is promised in UMD’s mission statement.

UMD’s mission statement says, “The University of Minnesota Duluth integrates liberal education, research, creative activity and public engagement and prepares students to thrive as lifelong learners and globally engaged citizens.”

“It’s about student success,” James Klueg, a member of SEM and the department head of the School of Fine Arts, said.

It was emphasized at the meeting that looking out for the students and their well-being is another essential factor for student success and better retention rates.

“Our students are coming to us with greater and greater needs in terms of their mental health, in terms of baggage they bring with them from their home, their communities and other places,” Black said.

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