In the Fall of 2019, the total enrollment of undergraduate students was 8,893, and as of the Fall of 2021, that total has fallen to 8,392 students. This indicates that there was a 5% decrease in the undergraduate student body since the start of the pandemic. Though a portion of this reduction is due to a large graduating class, the disparity in the undergraduate total can also be attributed to a lower incoming first year class due to the pandemic.
In reality, Stockton University may have experienced a 5% decrease in student population over two years, but from the Fall of 2020 to the Fall of 2021, there was only a 1% decrease.
Dr. Robert Heinrich, the Chief Enrollment Management Officer, attributes this reduction to the pandemic’s impact on how prospective students could interact with Stockton. Since many were unable to attend open houses or even visit the campus, it was harder for high school students to finalize decisions to enroll at Stockton. This hesitancy made new and returning students consider taking time off or going to community colleges in order to continue their degrees at a cheaper cost while everything remained virtual. On a wider scale, high unemployment rates among students found many unable to pay for tuition, which was a major contributor to decreased enrollment.
This reduction has plummeted the university’s revenue, and made the institution implement more conservative budgeting decisions. However, Stockton is able to supplement the loss of revenue through federal relief and not spiking tuition rates for returning students.
Dr. Heinrich detailed that some majors have remained flat or decreased while other schools like Business and Health Science have seen a large increase over the past three years. This year has also seen an increased demand for on-campus housing as soon as the university announced the return of in-person classes. It should be noted Dr. Heinrich mentioned that some students were still not returning to campus housing due to restrictions such as the guest policy that limits visitation.
With “Discover Stockton” and more students being able to visit the campus, enrollment may return to better numbers come the Spring and Fall of 2022. Dr. Heinrich discussed the results of a study that students who visited the Galloway campus and its visually-appealing landscape are more likely to apply for Stockton. In addition to the university’s beautiful campus, returning students acting as ambassadors spread the word about their experiences at Stockton help to ensure an eventual return or surpass of undergraduate totals prior to the pandemic.