In Challenging Times for Higher Education, Rockhurst University Sees Enrollment Increase

Thursday, December 10, 2020
Students talking

Rockhurst University is one of a few bucking the trend of many Missouri colleges and universities facing enrollment headwinds as a result of COVID-19 and demographic changes, according to a new report from the state coordinating board for higher education.

A fall enrollment report recently issued by that body indicated that most Missouri institutions of higher education, both public and private, saw drops in headcount enrollment in the fall of 2020 compared to the previous year, with an overall decline of 5.9%.

The COVID-19 pandemic played a part in that drop, alongside the longer term changes in the state’s population. The report specifically cites declines in part-time enrollment as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite those trends, Rockhurst University was among the few institutions listed that experienced an increase in its headcount enrollment over the past year, with the student population growing by 23.6% over 2019.

There are two reasons for that increase, according to Paula Shorter, Ph.D., associate provost for enrollment services — one specific to this year, the other hopefully indicating a longer term trend.

“It is obviously good news for us, especially in what has been an otherwise challenging year for higher education,” Shorter said. “Saint Luke’s College of Health Sciences becoming part of Rockhurst University this year certainly played a part in that increase, with hundreds of students becoming part of our campus community for the first time. But we’ve also seen growth in our first-time student population, as we welcomed our second-largest ever class of first-time students this fall. And we’re happy that both instances indicate the University is on a path for growth.”