By Natalie McGovern, News Editor
Neb. and Iowa growth rates are reportedly at the lowest in years, according to several reports conducted by David Drozd, research coordinator for UNO Center for Public Affairs. According to a CBS report regarding the study, Nebraska’s growth rate fell below the national average after exceeding the growing trend in past years. The drop comes from data reporting amount of births, deaths and number of migrations around these states.
UNO enrollment rates had a significant decrease in the 2010-11 school year. Data from the Census Bureau shows fewer students between the ages of 17 and 32 are enrolling in colleges throughout Neb. Due to baby boomer and baby boomer echo years during the 1970s and 1980s along with the generation Y years that followed, fewer Nebraskans are turning 17 and as a result, less traditional students are enrolling in colleges. The biggest peak for growth was during the baby boomer echo years, said Drozd, and Neb. moved beyond Generation Y to a smaller phase where there were relatively fewer births.
According to the CBS report, Neb. trailed the national average slightly, adding 16,300 people, or 0.9 percent while Iowa added 16,000 for a growth rate of 0.5 percent. For two years in a row Nebraska outpaced the national growth rate.
Drozd said in his CBS interview that this would have been the third straight year, and that’s what was expected. Although he has not reviewed actual enrollment data, Drozd said there has been a decrease in enrollment for traditional students compared to that of non-traditional students on campus.
How does this directly affect UNO enrollment rates?
UNO is classified as a commuter school in which a high number of nontraditional students enroll. This includes students that fall into brackets over the age of 25.
Since enrollment percentages had been up for awhile, the need for jobs for graduate students rose, contributing to an inherent push for higher enrollment. With a smaller number of students now enrolling, Drozd said challenges are now being presented for all universities across the state.
UNO plans to combat this issue by employing strategic marketing propositions to hike enrollment rates from 16,000 to 20,000 in the upcoming years. UNO has put together “pretty aggressive enrollment goals” for the next eight years, said Drozd. He also mentioned there is nothing wrong with this caliber of a goal, but that it will take a larger marketing strategy.
So, will people continue to enroll?
Drozd said enrollment drives credit hours, which in turn creates tuition dollars.
“The costs within the university system are fixed and are going to be there regardless,” Drozd said.
The economy is also a wild card that will contribute to the growing problem of low enrollment.