Pandemic presents enrollment challenges for universities

The arrival of the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted institutions and households worldwide, with no institution hit harder than college campuses. As many colleges and universities moved into a mostly online or hybrid format, freshman college enrollment has plummeted across the country.   

A study done by the Nation Student Clearinghouse Research Center highlighted the average freshman enrollment plummeting 13%. It comes as no surprise with most classes limited to online attendance, an economic crisis and the traditional trappings of college life being massively restricted. Marshall has certainly been no exception to this trend.  

“In terms of enrollment, this year we’re obviously battling Covid and changes to the landscape of higher education,” Student Body President, Anna Williams, said. “I think education is not a one size fits all thing; some things work, some things don’t. I think a lot of students are discovering that online or hybrid courses can be a bit difficult.” 

Marshall’s goal as the pandemic continues to make the virtual learning experience as accessible and easy as possible. Williams referenced the student fees refund, setup of hot spots for students in rural areas and expanding the device share program.  

Despite the changes and challenges, there are still signs of the university attempting to keep as many students as possible. According to Sarah Davis, Director of Undergraduate Academic Advising, freshman re-enrollment from fall 2020 to spring of this year was nearly identical to years past.  

“The fall semester was about access, which we knew, from last spring from when we went online. Making sure students had WiFi, access to a laptop and didn’t have to complete class on their phones.” Davis said. “I think that has been a response from students that the university has recognized and put forth a bunch of efforts.”  

As the nation waits for a day where ordinary life is on the horizon, universities like Marshall will look forward to in-person learning as the standard but will make do in the meantime. 

Tyler Spence can be reached at [email protected].