Wartburg’s overall enrollment decreased by 62 full-time students this year, Edie Waldstein, vice president for enrollment management, said.
Last year Wartburg had 1,735 full-time students enrolled. There are now 1,673, with an overall head count of 1,747, which includes part-time students. This is down from last year’s overall enrollment of 1,805, Waldstein said.
“It looks like our retention is down from last year,” Waldstein said, but she said retention is still being determined. This doesn’t mean the school is necessarily losing money.
“If more students left who were getting high aid packages, and more students came in who were receiving low aid packages, one can’t assume it’s automatically a loss in revenue,” Waldstein said. The college is still looking into the net revenue, now that the number of students has just been determined.
If there was a loss in revenue, Waldstein said the President’s Budget Advisory Council would talk about how to balance the budget using reallocation and a contingency line.
“If there were a shortfall, we’d update and revise the budget again and that always has to do with reallocation,” Waldstein said. “There’s always some tweaking going on. Do we want to go over to this area and say, ‘well maybe we can get by with a little less over here,’ and shift it over here?”
The incoming student count is down as well this year, with 521 new students to last year’s 563.
Waldstein said the drop in numbers is due to several factors, including the declining number of high school graduates due to lower birthrates 18 years ago.
“Birthrates are continuing to go down. That pool is smaller than it was in the ’90s,” Waldstein said.
With less high school graduates, Waldstein said area colleges are competing to draw students from a smaller group. She said Wartburg will not hire more admissions staff for recruiting.
“We’re trying to become increasingly competitive. You have to beat the next college so to speak,” Waldstein said.
Last year’s graduating class of over 400 was the biggest in Wartburg’s history, and losing that unusually large number of students makes the decrease in enrollment seem even greater, Waldstein said.
This year has brought an increase in biology majors, with 343 biology students compared to last year’s 314, Waldstein said.
Wartburg also has a record 143 international students this year, Waldstein said, now making up 8 percent of the student body.
Waldstein said while there are minor drops in enrollment, Wartburg’s general trend line is one of growth.
“We want to continue to grow slowly,” Waldstein said. “It’s good for an institution to grow. In order to do this well, we can’t grow overnight.”
Waldstein said she thinks the college is in a solid place. The academic profile of incoming students is similar to past years, with an average high school GPA of 3.47 and an average ACT score of 24, Waldstein said.
“Even in enrollment, which looks like all numbers, there’s a qualitative aspect to that as well,” she said.