Eastern New Mexico University’s overall enrollment numbers are down by 5 percent since the spring 2018 semester.
The headcount in spring 2018 was 5,450 students (with 3,488 as a full-time equivalent), while the headcount this semester is 5,173 (with 3,348 as a full-time equivalent). The headcount for fall 2018 was 6,015 students, which was down from 6,027 in fall 2017.
According to ENMU President Jeff Elwell, the biggest impact of this decline is on student organizations funded by student fees.
“The biggest impact was the 65 freshmen we didn’t get this year that we had the year before,” said Elwell. “If you look at just those 65 freshmen, that’s $403,000 less in revenue from the freshman class.”
Elwell said the biggest losses to Eastern were graduate students and incoming freshmen. He said there are a few factors that contribute to these declines.
“In the last 10 years, we’ve more than doubled the number of students who have been awarded degrees,” said Elwell, adding that in 2008, the university awarded 629 college degrees, whereas in 2017, the university awarded 1,322 degrees. He said Eastern ranges from 40 to 134 seniors graduating each year.
He said senior classes have been two to three times larger than ENMU’s freshman classes, and although it is a good thing that more people are finishing college and graduating, incoming freshmen cannot make up for that loss in numbers.
“We aren’t going to always replace seniors every time one graduates, so it’s a good thing they are graduating, but it’s a bad thing it drops that (enrollment) number down.”
Elwell also said that larger universities in the state, such as New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, were offering strong scholarship incentives to incoming freshmen, which also hurt Eastern.
However, in September 2018, the Las Cruces Sun News reported that NMSU discovered a $3.3 million deficit in their budget due to “’discounts’ in tuition through university scholarships.”
NMSU and University of New Mexico in Albuquerque have also consistently been down in enrollment numbers since 2015.
Elwell said another impact in regard to incoming freshmen is the fact that New Mexico public schools have a declining number of seniors in their graduating classes each year, which impacts the number of incoming freshmen into New Mexico colleges.
“That’s why we are looking more out-of-state and internationally (for students),” said Elwell. “It’s tough because of the demographics. (And) With two-year college numbers being down, our transfer numbers have dropped a little bit.”
Elwell said another factor that can hurt Eastern’s budget is that while graduate and incoming freshman numbers have declined, dual enrollment students have increased -- high school students taking college courses.
“Last year, we were down in revenue by $330,000, because many of those students were dual credit, so we did not receive tuition from them,” said Elwell.
He said dual enrollment has grown from 254 in 2008 to 1,111 in fall 2018. However, he said, some legislation that was recently passed will give the university more royalties for dual enrollment students.
Despite the hardships with lower enrollment numbers and their financial impacts, Elwell said that ENMU is “on solid ground” financially due to the fact that it usually has a surplus each school year, meaning some money always carries over from the previous year, giving the university a strong reserve fund, which they have not had to take money from.
Elwell said due to some of these hardships, the university will not have a surplus this next year, but the university will still be in a good place financially. It will just have to be “fiscally conservative.”
“It just may mean we may have to find some funds for certain projects elsewhere, but there won’t be any cuts anywhere,” he said. “We’ll still have a balanced budget; we just won’t have a surplus.”