Enrollment continues downward trend but some retention figures are up


Comparative enrollment (Graph by Dough Eastman)

The first official 2013 enrollment figures present a mixed picture. Although overall enrollment numbers continue to decline, the most significant drops are within the campus-based undergraduate population.

While the total of in-state, campus-based undergraduates held steady at 708 students compared to last fall, out-of-state campus based undergrads have decreased by 33 students. There were 273 out-of-state undergrads in 2012; as of Oct. 15, that number had shrunk to 240.

Undergraduates in the External Degree program have also dropped by eight students since last fall. Of those only one was from out-of-state.

On the plus side, incoming freshman and undergraduate transfers from Vermont increased from 205 in 2012 to 221 this year. However, out of state students decreased by 34, from 106 in 2012 to 72.

This decrease of new out-of-state students is problematic for the school’s income because out-of- state tuitions are from 33 percent to 55 percent higher than those paid by Vermonters. A little math tells the story: Vermont tuition averages $9,312 per year while non Vermonters can pay anywhere from $13,968 to $20,976 per year.

Figuring on the higher out-of-state rate, the college coffers are down by about $700,000 this year, but what impact that will have is uncertain at this time, according to Dean of Administration Sharron Scott. “We are still in the process of assessing the impact of the change in enrollment and should have some additional details to share soon,” she said. “I expect that the president will discuss the enrollment changes as part of her state of the college address.”

While the bottom line is down, some positives have emerged from the enrollment snapshot. “Taking a preliminary look, it appears that our retention of out-of-state was better than in has been in past years,” said Registrar Doug Eastman.

Higher retention could help offset the loss of expected revenue from a decline in incoming students.

Overall, JSC has a headcount of 1748 students this year, a decrease of 55 students compared to the 1803 students in fall 2012. This is also a decrease of 252 students compared to the high of 2000 students in fall 2009.

Graduate students, meanwhile, have dropped by 10 students; three of those are out-of-state while the remaining seven are Vermont residents.

Graph by Doug Eastman

Graph by Doug Eastman

The student population at JSC has actually been in steady decline since 2009, marked by a 25 percent decrease during that time. Multiple factors are responsible, many of which are not unique to JSC. Vermont has one of the highest high school graduation rates in the country, but one of the lowest college attendance rates. According to the National Center for Education Management Systems, Vermont has a high school graduation rate of 86.6 percent but fewer than half of those go on to college. In addition, the pool of high school graduates has been shrinking over the past decade, which means the pool of prospective freshmen has contracted as well.