Dr. Debbie Below, vice president for enrollment management and student success, delivered a report on the fall 2023 Census Enrollment at the Southeast Missouri State University Board of Governors meeting Sept. 22. Below said that while the 9,686 students attending the University this fall reflects an anticipated decline in enrollment, there are big success stories to share.
“This fall, Southeast saw a record high 1,465 high school students earning SEMO credit through the University’s Early College Programs,” said Below. “Southeast is proud to serve 54 high schools and the number is growing thanks to enhanced services for student, families, and schools.”
Below said of those high school students a record 979 students earned 12 or more college credits (the equivalent of a full-time college semester) while still in high school.
“We know students who enter college with 12 or more credits increase their likelihood of graduating from college in four years by 23 percent,” Below said.
Below reported overall undergraduate headcount decreased 2 percent, but the University saw 8 percent increases in both graduate and international headcount and a 1 percent increase in online enrollment.
“Undergraduate enrollment is not where we would like for it to be,” Below said. “It’s a challenging market for undergrad with fewer high school-aged students, but we projected a decline this year and are well into working on our fall 2024 class.”
Southeast’s Strategic Action Plan outlines goals for growing graduate enrollment while maintaining undergraduate enrollment. Below said while the increase in graduate and international were credited to many factors, academic programs certainly played a strong role.
“We have added graduate programs in cybersecurity and computer science in recent years and this fall, we have 680 graduate majors in those programs along with 484 undergraduate majors,” Below said.
Some academic programs also saw increased enrollment including the University’s now two-year old professional pilot program. Below said the growth has surpassed expectations with enrollment now just over 100 students. The Holland College of Arts and Media was another area where almost every program saw increased enrollment over last year.
“Despite national trends reporting declines in nursing enrollment, Southeast grew its undergraduate nursing majors by 3 percent,” said Below. With strong demand from both students and employers for health-related degrees, Southeast is aggressively working on partnerships to add opportunities for students interested in the health professions.”
Below sited a partnership between Southeast and the Cape Career and Technology Center which is seeing its inaugural cohort of 20 students enrolled in a new respiratory therapy bachelor’s degree program.
“The most positive success story I can share about our enrollment data is our four-year graduation rate,” Below said.
SEMO President Dr. Carlos Vargas established a goal to increase the University’s rate to 50 percent. The national average is 30 percent. Below said Southeast has improved from 35 percent in 2015 when the goal was established to 43 percent, making substantial progress toward the goal.
“We have an ambitious, but critically important goal. Achieving a record graduation rate doesn’t happen overnight. Every department has contributed to this achievement. And most importantly, we instill in our students the importance of having the ‘Will To Do.’ This momentum is real. We are transforming the learning experience,” said Below.