Here's how Utah colleges avoided steep enrollment drops after Mormon missionary change

Published: Monday, Aug. 26 2013 10:11 a.m. MDT

Based on revenue projections released by Utah State last January, that 500 to 600 student drop would translate into a revenue loss between $2.5 million and $3 million. Unknown at this time is the exact impact on enrollment and revenue and the drop in students at USU's regional campuses, which include USU Eastern.

Mortensen said the tuition waiver passed by the Legislature played a role in curbing the loss of students at USU, with admissions staff making more of an effort out of state than they ever had before. He said the various student service entities on campus worked together proactively, informing students of USU's deferment policies and encouraging high school graduates to secure their admission and scholarships prior to leaving on missions.

"When that missionary announcement was made, at least on our campus, we were meeting the very next Monday talking about ‘OK, where do we go from here’," Mortensen said. "They were recruiting students anyway, they just turned it up a notch."

Weber State University

Weber State University expects to see a dip in enrollment between 5 and 6 percent – or 1,300 to 1,500 students – according to school spokeswoman Allison Hess. While official numbers are not yet available, that range would represent a smaller impact than the 7 percent enrollment dip projected by the school in January.

Because of the fluctuation in the first weeks of the semester, and the high number of part-time students a Weber State, Hess was not able to provide an estimate for how the enrollment dip would translate into tuition revenue. But Hess said that the school saw a bump in enrollment in 2012 – surpassing 26,000 students for the first time – which helps to mitigate the current decrease.

"We were able to plan for it, even during our budget process," Hess said of the dip in enrollment. "This is not coming as a shock for anybody."

Dixie State University

Dixie State University is anticipating a 3 percent to 5 percent drop in enrollment – between 250 and 400 students – which is a smaller decline than the 8 percent dip projected in January. David Roos, executive director of enrollment management said a decrease of that size translates into roughly $1 million in lost tuition revenue for the university.

Roos said the school made a concerted effort in recruiting out of state, particularly in Nevada, Arizona and Southern California, using the out-of-state tuition waiver to appeal to students in those areas.

"It makes us very competitive when they’re looking at their other options," he said. "I think it has played a huge role."

Brigham Young University

At LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University, preliminary numbers suggest the fall 2013 enrollment will be down roughly 10 percent – or 3,000 students – from last year, said spokesman Todd Hollingshead.

Hollingshead said the LDS missionary changes appear to have played a significant role in that drop, with the largest losses being seen in freshman male students and women between the ages of 19 and 21.

BYU had not previously released enrollment projections based on the missionary changes and Hollingshead said the 10 percent drop wasn't necessarily above or below the school's expectations.

"We really didin’t know what to expect because we’ve never been through something like this," he said. "We were just watching it and trying to plan as much as we could."

Southern Utah University

Southern Utah University spokeswoman Jessica McIntyre said SUU is anticipating an enrollment drop between 4 percent and 6 percent – or roughly 300 to 500 students – for the fall 2013 semester. She said the average student pays around $5,000 in academic fees for a full academic year, which would suggest a loss of between $1.5 million and $2.5 million for the university.

"We were estimating it to be about 10 percent, so with us looking at a 4 to 6 percent (enrollment decrease) that is easing our minds a little bit," she said. "We wish we didn’t have any drop at all but there are some things that have come up."

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