Independent Colleges and Universities Anticipate Enrollment Growth
Florida’s independent colleges and universities expect to see slight increases in enrollment in the coming year, after increasing financial aid options for needy students.
“Our students and their families are struggling with this economic downturn,” Ed H. Moore, president of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida, said in a press release Monday. “Yet they realize the long term economic value of pursuing college degrees and are making tremendous sacrifices in order to either enter school or remain”.
The National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities reported that enrollment at private institutions nationally will increase by about 0.2 percent, but Moore said the ICUF enrollment increases are expected to be somewhat larger. The University of Tampa, for example, expects enrollment to jump by about 12 percent.
Final figures, however, will not be available for several months.
“We expect to see tremendous variances among schools” said Moore.
Moore said ICUF research found that most of the institutions accepted more students for the upcoming school year than normal because of the uncertainty of whether students will actually show up for the fall semester.
“In anticipation of the economic factors affecting decision-making, we did widen our acceptance field and our yield rate appears to have decreased,” said Roger N. Casey, vice president for academic affairs and provost of Rollins College.
Many of the Florida private institutions also reported lower than average tuition increases, NAICU reported. Tampa, Rollins, Palm Beach Atlantic and Bethune-Cookman, among others, reported that they limited tuition increases this year because of the economy. St. Leo University and St. Thomas University reported their tuition increases were about the same as last year.
In contrast, the state university system was forced to raise tuition by about 15 percent in order to keep up with expenses that couldn’t be covered by state revenue.
Most of the schools in the ICUF survey reported that they increased financial aid to help keep their schools affordable. However, that does not necessarily cover all students. Bethune-Cookman reported that the number of students who said they cannot afford to attend after they were accepted has doubled.
About 40 percent of the institutions nationally reported that students have dropped out because of the recession. Some of the ICUF members said they lost students who can no longer afford to attend college and others expect such losses to continue in the fall.
“We will not know for sure until the fall semester begins, but we probably will lose some,” said Kenneth D. Johnson, assistant provost of records and academic computing at St. Thomas.