WKU working to address continued decline in enrollment

Student enrollment down 4% from Fall 2017, down 28% among international students

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Western Kentucky University continues to face the issue of declining enrollment numbers since the school reached a peak of 21,124 students all the way back in the Fall of 2012.

“We want to have the strongest, most successful student body that we can,” said WKU Media Relations Director Bob Skipper.

While the terms “strongest” and “most successful” could subjectively be applied to Western’s student body, “largest” is not a term that can be, especially with a university that has seen a 4 percent decrease in overall student enrollment since the Fall 2017 semester.

That 4 percent decline equates to 806 less Hilltoppers on campus, a number that Skipper attributes to WKU changing their academic admissions standards.

“We figure there’s at least 200 students or more who were not admitted this time around who would have under our old guidelines,” he said. “We’re also seeing a big decline in our international population.”

The 28.6 percent decrease in international students on the Hill has a lot to do with several external factors, Skipper noted. Students from Saudia Arabia saw the biggest loss, with 128 of them no longer at Western, something that has to do with a specific scholarship for Saudi-based students no longer being offered. With such staggeringly high numbers of losses of international students, WKU has taken certain steps to try and reverse that trend back in a positive direction.

“We’ve hired a new International Enrollment Officer, John Sunnygard, who is putting together a plan now to bolster our recruitment process of international students, and looking at ways that we can get more of those international students here on campus,” Skipper said. “Not only for the revenue, but because of the impact they make on our campus.”

The university has seen a decrease in revenue from tuition, although Skipper says it’s not because of lower enrollment numbers, but rather how enrolled students choose to pay for their education.

“What we had seen was a decline in the number of students paying full-price for tuition, and that caused the revenue to decline,” he added.

A decline in enrollment isn’t something the university is happy to see, but they are pleased with a positive increase they’ve seen in a different, yet very important, educational category.

“We’re seeing our persistence rates are going up,” said Skipper. “Already we’re seeing an increase in persistence rates from the fall to the spring, and we haven’t completed the spring registration process yet. So we’re already seeing a benefit from that.”