Where is everyone?

An investigation of lower enrollment at UAS

MELISSA SCRIVEN, Staff Writer, UAS Whalesong 

One year ago, 57 first-time freshmen were enrolled at UAS across Juneau, Ketchikan, and Sitka campuses. This spring, that number is 42. This reflects a 26 percent drop in enrollment of first-time freshmen at UAS since last year. 

Enrollment is down in some areas more than others.

“Enrollment of incoming students (not re-enrolling) is down 13 percent. Overall enrollment of all students (new and continuing) is only down 3 percent,” UAS Provost Karen Carey said in an email interview with the Whalesong. 

Carey said the university is actively trying to mitigate lower enrollment numbers. 

UAS has developed a Strategic Enrollment Taskforce directly focusing on recruiting, marketing, and retention efforts.

Formed in June 2017, the task force is “responsible for developing the UAS Strategic Enrollment Plan that will guide long-term, data-informed planning and implementation of marketing, recruitment, and retention efforts,” according to an overview on the UAS website. (http://www.uas.alaska.edu/chancellor/strategic-enrollment-task-force.html)

Lower enrollment numbers result in less student tuition collected by the university. When asked what this means for the current UAS budget, Carey said, “While UAS has a goal of increasing enrollment, the budget was built with the assumption of declined enrollment.”

A shrinking budget, not only at UAS but across the UA system, is also the result of multiple years of reduced funding from the Alaska State Legislature. Budget cuts have been reflected in multiple ways; one such example is cutting positions. UAS has lost 22 percent of employees since 2014. Carey said those employees were primarily full-time staff.

“Some positions were simply not filled when people left or retired and some were positions that were eliminated with people losing their jobs, which is always very unfortunate,” she said.

Another reflection of cost-cutting measures and lower enrollment is fewer classes being offered overall. 

In 2018, the percentage of online classes at all three UAS campuses was 44.9 percent, with on-campus classes representing 55.1 percent of all classes offered. 

Since 2014, fewer on-campus classes have been offered, while the number of online classes has remained about the same.

“In terms of course offerings, the number of courses offered online has not increased, but this is due to the lower number of courses being offered in general,” said UAS Registrar Trisha Lee.

Lee compared fall enrollment over the past five years. “Because student enrollment has gone down in general, student enrollment shows a decline in both online and on-campus enrollment,” she said.

“Slightly over half of all course enrollment was in online courses for fall 2018,” Lee said.

The February issue of the Whalesong will further explore the UAS Strategic Enrollment Plan and Taskforce.

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