Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Virginia State reverses its enrollment decline, projects 5% increase for Fall 2016

Florida A&M University was one of the many historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) hit hard by the overhaul of the federal financial aid program in 2011. The university has lost $27.4M in tuition and fees due to declining enrollment since 2012-2013. FAMU expects to lose about $10M more because of the enrollment drop that is projected for 2016-2017.

But some HBCUs have already started recovering from the damage that the 2011 federal financial aid shakeup caused.

Former FAMU Dean Makola M. Abdullah became the 14th president of Virginia State University (VSU) on February 1, 2016. He came to a school where the fall semester enrollment had been going down for years.

An article in Washington Post on December 31, 2015 reported that for Fall 2015: “At Virginia State, there were 4,696 students in the fall, down from 5,025.” That was a decline of 7 percent. The Associated Press said that the VSU enrollment decline caused “a loss of between $2.1 million and $3.4 million.”

Pamela Hammond, who served as the interim president of VSU, worked to stabilize enrollment and recruit new students while she was in office from January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2015. Enrollment increased between Spring 2015 and Fall 2015. Abdullah picked up where she left off during his first months on the job. VSU is now projecting an increase in enrollment for Fall 2016.

As of June 24, VSU has admitted 5414 students for fall 2016. That is a five percent increase compared to this same time last year. Preliminary data also shows a 30 percent increase in the number of freshmen who have accepted offers to attend VSU in the fall compared to a year ago. University officials expect that number to increase as the fall semester nears. VSU has also seen an increase in the number of transfer offers accepted.

Abdullah also worked successfully to expand the number of students who take advantage of the TrojanAdvance Program that was created in 2013 to help students who were struggling to pay the cost of classes. Students in the TrojanAdvance Program pay $199 for an on-line summer course. If a student receives a B or higher, $100 will be credited back to into that student’s account. So far this summer, VSU has seen a 42 percent increase in the number of students taking these on-line classes compared to a year ago.

“The increase is evidence that our $99 TrojanAdvance Program is working,” Abdullah said. “We saw a need and implemented this program as a cost savings strategy to help students stay on track for graduation. We believe in creating opportunities for our students.”

Enrollment for traditional summer classes at VSU is also up. The increase in the number of students taking summer classes will help those students make more progress toward completing their degrees, which will assist in raising the overall six-year graduation rate at VSU.

Abdullah served on the faculty of the FAMU College of Engineering Sciences, Technology, and Agriculture for 15 years and was the dean of the college from 2008 through 2011. He recently appointed former FAMU Associate Provost Donald E. Palm to serve as VSU’s new provost and vice president of academic affairs.

VSU can expect to see more good news in the area of enrollment in the near future with those two Rattlers in charge.

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