Fall enrollment at Fort Lewis College is down 6.6 percent compared with last year – the lowest it has been in more than a decade – prompting the college to increase its effort to boost retention and enrollment even as it raises admission standards.
President Dene Thomas said changing admission requirements are partly a contributing factor.
“The competition in higher education for freshman and transfer students is particularly fierce across the West,” Thomas told the college’s Board of Trustees at its quarterly meeting Friday.
Student enrollment for the fall semester is 3,356 –239 students shy of the previous year. Fall enrollment in 2016 was 3,595, which at that time was the lowest enrollment in more than a decade. During the recession is 2009, fall enrollment was 3,685.
Thomas said the college is considering several ways to stem the decline, including transitioning to become a university.
Four-year colleges in Colorado are raising their admission standards, which will take effect in 2019. FLC is gradually phasing into the new standards.
The standards are a combination of test scores and GPA.
Thomas said the number of applicants who are not admitted has increased steadily in recent years. In 2016, 614 applicants were denied admission. This year, it was 752.
“Higher education can sometimes be slow to evolve,” said FLC spokesman Mitch Davis. “FLC needs to look at the enrollment numbers as motivation to evaluate if we’re offering both what students are demanding and what they need for the future.”
Davis said despite declining enrollment, the average high school GPA for incoming freshmen continues to increase.
“Today, that average GPA stands at 3.31, the highest in at least the last five years,” Davis said.
Fewer students means the institution will take a financial hit, but Davis said the FLC budget committee anticipated the enrollment decline and planned accordingly.
“The college has no plans for personnel cuts this year as a result of these enrollment numbers,” he said.