The number of students enrolled in major state schools in Iowa is decreasing. For two of Iowa’s three public universities, the drops are intentional by the school, but there has been an observable enrollment decline throughout the entire state.
An Iowa College Student Aid report analyzing enrollment at all Iowa college institutions from fall 2016 to fall 2017 saw a negative change of 5.02 percent. There are 5 percent fewer enrolled students; which is the equivalent to every 1 in 20 students.
Drake previously had a decrease in enrollment as well. The University had 5,001 students enrolled for the fall 2016 semester, while in fall of 2017, there were only 4,904. This is a decrease of nearly 100; however, the following year, there was no shortage of applicants. On March 5, the admissions office reported receiving 6,587 first-year undergraduate applications for this semester, a 38.7 percent increase compared to 2016. This was the highest number of potential Drake students in recorded history.
Iowa’s public universities — the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa — all expect to see a decline in enrollment for this current semester. The University of Iowa and Iowa State University have intentionally minimized their student body according to the Iowa Board of Regents, citing efforts to focus on retaining students and increasing graduation rates. UNI, however, has been unsuccessfully attempting to grow in enrollment.
Sophomore Komel Shahid transferred to Drake this year from the University of Iowa.
“I knew I wasn’t focusing as well as I would have if I had gone to a smaller school, being on a big campus it’s easier to get distracted and I was focused more on friendships and hanging out with people,” Shahid said. “It’s not like I didn’t study, but I felt like I would’ve gotten a better education here, especially with more one-on-one relationships with teachers.”
Drake stands out from many schools for its student to faculty ratio. For every 11 students, there is one faculty member. This makes it easier for students to seek out help from teachers. 54.5 percent of Drake classes have less than 20 students, which also sets it apart from other schools. Bigger schools can often have lectures with over a hundred students in their seats, making it difficult for any one student to raise their hand and ask a question or to stop in and ask the professors for help outside of class.
“Office hours aren’t as intimidating here,” Shahid said.
In comparison, the student to faculty ratio at Iowa State University is 19 to one and only 28.7 percent of its classes have less than 20 students.
“Drake feels more community-based and close-knit,” said Caleb Kinseth Peterson, a first-year student.
Financial assistance is a huge deciding factor for prospective students. Drake offers a tuition guarantee to incoming classes, meaning each class will have a fixed tuition cost and know exactly how much they will have to pay every year. Drake also gives out scholarships and grants to help students make their way through college.
“I received a huge scholarship on top of two others that made it more affordable for me to go to Drake,”Peterson said. “I also stayed in-state because it’s far more expensive to go out-of-state.”
In-state tuition is less costly and some students can choose to commute to their campus if they live close by, saving additional expenses that would have been spent on dorms. Out-of-state tuition is steadily rising, but so is in-state tuition.
The Iowa Department of Education recorded a 4.7 percent tuition increase from the fall 2016 to fall 2017 semesters at Iowa’s community colleges. The Chronicle of Higher Education showed that for those same semesters, Drake itself saw an 11 percent tuition increase, Iowa State University 5.1 percent, the University of Northern Iowa 4.7 percent and the University of Iowa 7.7 percent. Students have to pay more every year to receive the same education.
It’s not just Iowa suffering from this drop. The state of Mississippi reported a similar decline, and the University of Central Oklahoma’s enrollment fell over 10 percent from four years previously to the spring 2018 semester. It remains undetermined if trends will change in the future, but as tuition rates continue to rise, it is unlikely for enrollment rates to increase.