• Story by Alyssa L. Brennan // Photos by Ashley

CCU experiences first enrollment decline in its history

There has been a decline in enrollment for universities and colleges all across the nation and Coastal Carolina University is no exception. CCU is experiencing its first ever enrollment decline.

According to an article from Inside Higher Ed, “college enrollment in the U.S. has decreased for the eighth consecutive year.”

Associate Provost for Strategy and Development, Holley Tankersley, Ph. D., had some statistics on CCU”s enrollment and some insight into what is being done to try to improve those numbers for the following years. Tankersley said that usually CCU wants to bring in 2,200 freshmen and have total enrollment of 10,000 students. This year CCU is at 9,760 total undergraduates, which is a decline from previous years. Last year CCU was at 9,917 total undergraduates.

“We are now in an environment in higher education where declining enrollment at the undergraduate level is more the norm across the country than the exception,” Tankersley said. “One thing that is important to know is that because there is a demographic decline, that just means 18 years ago birth rates were lower, so we have fewer individuals in the population that are reaching college age.”

CCU, however, has developed a new strategy for recruitment, now that things are changing across the nation.

“In a lot of the places where we have the largest demographic declines are places where we recruit a lot of our students, such as the northeast and Atlantic sea board. So, part of our strategy is to change our recruitment. We’ll still certainly accept and encourage applications from people of that area of the country, but also expand, including doing a lot more outreach here in South Carolina,” she said.

“We’re really thinking about ‘what are areas of the state where colleges and universities really haven’t done much outreach for students?’ and thinking about rural areas and areas that don’t have higher education locally like we do here in Horry County. We [also] think we can do a lot more outreach here [in Horry County] and in our neighboring counties.”

CCU also plans to focus more on bringing in transfer students from two-year colleges across the state or those who feel they chose the wrong college and need to switch. Another plan in the works is raising additional scholarship funds, so those who are interested but need the financial help are able to have CCU as an option. An article from The Chronicle of Higher Education, discusses the importance of making college more accessible for low-income students.

“Tiffany Beth Mfume, assistant vice president for student success and retention at Morgan State University, argues that colleges have to get serious about better serving low-income students, because they can’t afford not to. Shifting demographics mean that increasing numbers of potential students in the United States will be low-income, first-generation, or underrepresented minorities – or all three. If colleges can’t educate these students, they won’t be able to keep the lights on,” Karin Fischer said in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The university has been impacted financially by the decline which means students may be impacted financially.

“Tuition prices are set by the Board of Trustees and they have indicated that they do not want to increase tuition, certainly not by a lot. In fact, the state government prohibits us from raising tuition over a certain percentage. They did [increase tuition prices] last year. I anticipate that when they pass this years’ budget, they will do the same thing. Certainly, the preference is to not to pass those costs onto the students. Because enrollment is down, that means we are receiving less tuition money and that means there is a budget shortfall,” Tankersley said.

A budget shortfall lead to cuts that should be relatively unseen.

“The university is in fine financial health overall, we have reserves. We are just trying to be cautious as this enrollment trend and these demographic declines are going to be with us for 10 years, at least. We are just trying to make sure we are prepared moving forward,” Tankersley said.

According to an article from The Hechinger Report, “some colleges won’t make it. Moody’s Investors Service is predicting an uptick in closures of private colleges. Public colleges may have trouble convincing state legislatures to fund them amid declining enrollments.” However, there doesn’t seem to be a need for students to be worried about CCU’s future.

“I don’t think students should be concerned about the future of CCU. We’re still in a strong position, and South Carolina will be having a population increase. I think students should actually see some potential in this because it means that the university probably will change a little bit in a positive way,” Tankersley said. “We are going to be trying to bring in more students from different areas of the country. I think it also means that we are more focused on making sure that the students that we have here are well-supported.”

The Chanticleer has reached out to the Student Government Association and they have no comment at this time.

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