Total university enrollment is up, but number of freshmen is down

The Daily News | Kara Berg

To fit with a push for higher-quality incoming classes, Ball State’s freshman enrollment has dropped 3.2 percent this year, according to a university press release.

Although each year the university tries to bring the “best and brightest” students in, Chris Munchel, director of undergraduate admissions, said in the last few years there has been an increased push.

The university had a record number of applicants this year, and admissions was able to draw out the best students to admit from that group, President Paul W. Ferguson said. Although they had more students apply, the number of students who were actually admitted decreased to keep the quality of students up. 

Total enrollment:   New freshmen:
2015 – 21,196 2015 – 3,468
2014 – 20,655 2014 – 3,583
2013 - 20,503 2013 - 3,600
2012 - 21,053 2012 – 3,548
2011- 22,147 2011 – 3,822

2010 - 22,083

2010 – 3,580 

“I think Ball State is really being perceived as an institution on the move and is offering some really opportunistic career-changing opportunities,” Ferguson said.

While freshman admission decreased, the university saw increases in all other areas. The total number of students at the university increased by 2.6 percent and the number of new students is up 6.3 percent.

Ferguson attributed part of the total enrollment increase to the quality of the university’s academic programs. He said as long as the university continues to build onto its academics, the number of students who apply will grow.

“[Enrollment is] an important part of our growth and development as an institution,” he said. “It helps our revenue and diversity.”

Along with total admission, graduate, undergraduate transfers and online enrollment have all increased this year. 

“I think with that growth in online and graduate transfers, you’re building a diverse, broad-based university,” Ferguson said.

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President Paul W. Ferguson and the admissions staff are working to bring higher quality freshmen to the university. This resulted in a decreased amount of new freshmen being admitted this year. DN FILE PHOTO BREANNA DAUGHERTY

Ball State’s online program has been highly ranked by the U.S. News & World Report, the Online Learning Consortium and the Higher Learning Commission, which draws more students to the program, Ferguson said.

“We’re in a very good place now … with getting more of this wonderful, talented student base,” he said. “We have to figure out how to get more of this kind of student base."

Ferguson takes pride in the Hoosier-bred niche Ball State has created with its students. This year, 84 percent of students were from Indiana, Munchel said, up 6 percent from last year. That rate is higher than at both Indiana University and Purdue University.

“I think Ball State has created a wonderful niche, and we provide hands-on experiences with the resources of a larger institution, but still have that small school atmosphere in terms of personalization students can get on campus,” Munchel said.

To focus solely on enrollment, retention and graduation techniques, the university has split up the division of enrollment services from the division of strategic communications, said Julie Hopwood, interim vice president for strategic communications and senior adviser to the president.

“The idea is that, as we go through the reorganizations, we can really closely examine how we improve the institution as a whole,” Hopwood said.

Enrollment used to be only undergraduate, but now with the reorganization, Hopwood said they are working with reps from graduate school, online, distance education and with college deans. She said this will help to centralize enrollment and make their strategies for attracting the best students even better.

Once they have the high-quality students, the next big challenge will be keeping them at the university, which Ferguson said will ideally be done with the university’s academic programs and extra curricular activities.

“We need to make sure the broad experience is very visible and continue to enjoy the attraction of academically high-achieving students,” Ferguson said.