Overall Enrollment Down at Clarion University; Administration Remains Optimistic

CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) enrollment figures are in, and the overall enrollment for Clarion University is down; however, Clarion’s administration remains optimistic.

Enrollment figures are reported to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) on the 15th day of classes, and figures released this week indicates an overall enrollment decline of 2.6 percent between 2018 and 2019.

Clarion University’s total headcount enrollment is now 4,703, a decrease of 3.4 percent over last year.

Reports indicate that all Western Pennsylvania PASSHE schools show declines over last year.

According to a published article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the largest decrease was at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, down more than eight percent.

“California University of Pennsylvania saw a drop of 6.4 % or 470 students; Clarion University lost about 3.4% or 166 students; Edinboro declined by about 3.9%, or 188 students; and Slippery Rock was off by less than a percent, or 18 students,” according to the Post-Gazette.

The decline in enrollment is a trend starting in 2010 across Pennsylvania and the United States.

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According to a published article in TribLive, enrollment at PASSHE universities continued an overall slide this fall for the ninth consecutive year. Since 2010 PASSHE enrollment decreased by 20 percent. During the same period, Clarion’s enrollment dropped 36 percent. A chart developed by TribLive using PASSHE figures is included in this story.

Despite Clarion University’s decline in enrollment, officials are excited because of a four percent increase in the size of the freshman class, the first time in 10 years that freshman enrollment has increased.

Clarion’s admissions team renewed its focus on recruiting students from the Clarion region, and they continued efforts to bring in students from a broad geographical area. Students come from 46 of 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and students from 15 foreign countries are part of the student body.

“Academic quality of new freshmen is among the best in Clarion history, and students are exploring highly acclaimed and accredited programs at the university, including our BSN nursing program, biology, management, speech-language pathology and early childhood/special education,” said Carrie Thompson, director of undergraduate admissions.

“The rise in the number of students declaring education was particularly strong, thanks, in part, to the university’s strong history in teaching, our alumni network, and innovative opportunities in early childhood with a new year-long pilot program in student teaching this year.”

Freshmen enrollment at the Clarion Campus show a 14 percent increase this year over last year with a total of 768 freshmen, an increase of 42 students.

Retention rate is another encouraging factor in projecting future enrollment.

Statistics indicate that Clarion recorded its highest rate of retention in six years – 74.7 percent – among first- to second-year students.

“This higher retention rate of students returning for their second year indicates an increased likelihood that they will graduate and fulfill their dreams.  That transformation is our mission,” said Provost Pam Gent.

Gent cites concerted efforts that Clarion faculty and staff have made to increase retention:

  • Development of a Center for the First Year Experience that includes success coaches for freshmen;
  • Development of Living Learning Communities in the residence halls;
  • Survey of students who did not return to learn how the university can improve services and programs.

“Higher retention rates also mean higher overall university enrollment: Enrollment involves bringing in new students and keeping the students we have,” Gent added.


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