COVID-19 pandemic impacting college enrollment

JACKSON CO., Or.- Colleges adapted to covid-19 this year by limiting in-person instruction and going virtual. But according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, enrollment for colleges across the nation has fallen significantly.

At Southern Oregon University, as well as colleges across the U.S., the COVID-19 pandemic has hit enrollment numbers hard.

“This is definitely not normal, ” Mosley said.

SOU hasn’t released it’s official fall numbers. But spokesperson Joe Mosley says full time student enrollment is down 2%. That’s the average for public universities across the country according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

At SOU, retention is also down compared to it’s average as some are choosing to defer due to the pandemic.

“We did have several students who just did not register for classes that we expected to register,” Mosley said.

But while colleges like Southern Oregon University are seeing a major drop, one college in Oregon says they are doing just fine. At Oregon Tech, freshman enrollment is up.

Erik Johnson, the school’s director of admissions, believes it’s because of the nature of it’s specialized programs.

“Our ability to again preserve that intimate educational experience and hands-on project space, labs, and face to face interaction was critical to our enrollment success this fall,” Johnson said. Johnson says the school’s STEM-focused curriculum demands more hands-on learning, so adhering to state COVID guidelines is crucial.

He believes that’s paying off with their admission numbers.

“When we went out in August and did a virtual panel with the incoming class and parents, that made a huge difference and really made them stay confident about their final choice,” he said about adjusting to regulations.

The university also has the benefit of being in a more rural area. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, colleges in less populated areas had higher enrollment rates this fall when compared to colleges near larger cities.

“We have been very fortunate to be off the I-5 corridor and among one of the first counties that reopened,” Johnson said.

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Grace Smith
Grace Smith is co-anchor for NBC5 News at 6. The Chicago native is a recent graduate of University of Miami with a Communication Honors degree specializing in Broadcast Journalism. She minored in Creative Writing and focused her senior thesis on social media usage and engagement. During her time at the University of Miami, she anchored multiple award-winning student television programs, covering everything from music festivals to the Super Bowl. Though she loved Miami's beaches, she's thrilled to be in the Pacific Northwest where she can experience all four seasons and have a real Christmas tree! When she’s not at work, you can find Grace glued to any television showing live sports (especially if it's the Chicago Bears) or attempting a new recipe as she learns to cook.