Purdue among few Indiana universities seeing increased enrollment … – Journal & Courier

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. − With most Indiana universities seeing progressively lower rates of student enrollment, according to a state report on higher education, Purdue University stands out with its recent highest ever freshman class in Fall 2021.
This begs the question, why is Purdue the exception?
According to the June edition of Indiana Commission on Higher Education report on 2020’s college enrollment rates, “With just over half – 53 percent – of Indiana high school graduates in the class of 2020 having pursued education beyond high school,” the report said, “Indiana’s college-going rate experienced its sharpest year-over-year decline and dropped to its lowest point in recent history.”
In 2019, the college-going student rate was 59%; when including 2020’s rate of 53%, that’s a 12% drop from the peak rate of 65% in 2015.
The Indiana Commission for Higher Education attributes one of the main reasons for these drops to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, not all Indiana universities have seen lower rates of enrollment. Purdue University last fall welcomed its largest class of incoming freshman with 10,191 new students, bringing the university’s overall enrollment to a record 49,639.
A total of three main points have been attributed to Purdue’s exponential growth, according to Purdue marketing and communications:
Focus on these three facets, according to Purdue, produced such results as:
Purdue President Mitch Daniels, who announced in June his departure effective at the end of Fall 2022, expressed concern for how the ICHE’s recent numbers impact Indiana and our local community, while adding why and how he believes Purdue has remained an exception to the dropping enrollment rates.
“Details of the latest college-readiness report from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education should raise flags and serve as a wake-up call for our state’s entire higher education community,” Daniels said. “Fortunately, Purdue remains an exception in many key factors of concern cited in the report with our persistent commitment to affordability and accessibility.
“We’ve also responded by creating innovative pathways, such as Purdue Polytechnic High Schools, our Summer Start conditional admission program, and other measures to recruit and better equip underrepresented high schoolers for a successful college experience.”
According to a release from Purdue, Indiana University, Indiana State University and Purdue University were the only three statewide universities to experience ongoing enrollment increases over the years, as 40,721 Indiana high school students went to those three schools in the fall of 2020.
Further efforts to make Purdue a welcome university for new students comes in the form of the ongoing tuition freeze that began in 2012. Since then, Purdue’s tuition has remained at $9,992/year for Indiana residents and $28,794 for out-of-state students. This freeze is guaranteed through at least 2023.
In the same vein, around 60% of Purdue students graduate with no debt, which is significant compared to the national average of 39%.
Students in the Black, Hispanic and Latino communities saw the biggest drop in college-going rates since the beginning of the pandemic, with a 7% drop between 2019 and 2020. This is a point Purdue has worked to address as well in its enrollment rates.
“For the 2020-21 academic year, Purdue’s underrepresented minority enrollment totaled 3,749 undergraduates — nearly 1,300 more minorities than in 2012 and representing 12% of domestic enrollment,” a release from Purdue said. “Meanwhile, 8,200, or 27%, of domestic undergraduates were U.S. minorities, which also includes Asian American students. That was almost double the 4,140 enrolled in 2012.
“With the full backing of its trustees, Purdue launched a $75 million Equity Task Force initiative in fall 2020, which includes hiring additional recruiters to attract Black students, expanding existing programs such as Emerging Leaders, and introducing $25 million in scholarship opportunities for underrepresented minority students.”
Read more about the available programs for prospective and current students, including Emerging Leaders and Fast Start at https://www.purdue.edu/newsroom.
While it’s clear COVID-19 hit the academic field especially hard, Purdue’s “Protect Purdue Plan” in response to the pandemic served as a major factor in keeping up the safe enrollment of new students.
Protect Purdue incorporated personal health protocols, such as mask requirements, when the need called for it, as well as incorporating social distancing spaces across campus, researching COVID-19 itself and preparing for future changes the pandemic may have brought.
According to “The Spring Comparison Study” conducted by Carnegie, over 70% of incoming students, nationwide, preferred universities that were open to social distancing guidelines and mask requirements.
The ICHE is urging potential solutions to Indiana’s dropping rates of student enrollment. This includes possible auto-enrollment of students in the 21st Century Scholars program, increased funding for the Frank O’Bannon Grant, increasing the availability and use of dual credit, amongst other proposed solutions.
“We must look beyond the traditional approaches to education for both youth and adult learners,” Chris Lowery, Indiana’s higher education commissioner, said in a release. “This demands more intentional partnerships with our higher education institutions and employers, as well as strengthened policies and programming aligned to student success. We have a solid foundation upon which to continue building, but it will take time and focused effort to tackle these challenges.
“There are clear economic benefits that come with greater levels of education. People with a bachelor’s degree or higher are more likely to be employed and participating in the workforce, and they have significantly higher wages and a greater overall net worth. It is critical that we ensure all Hoosiers can access the opportunity that education and training beyond high school can provide.”
Margaret Christopherson is a reporter for the Journal & Courier. Email her at mchristopherson@jconline.com and follow her on Twitter @MargaretJC2.


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