Dillard Notable #3: Enrollment — All The Way Up!

Enrollment. The lifeblood of small private universities. Even more critical for HBCUs. Dillard is still working to get back toward our historic average of 1500–1600 students. After Hurricane Katrina we dropped to below 900 students. We made progress and by the fall of 2012 when I started we were slightly over 1300 students. Then the Parent Plus Loan change impacted all of higher education, especially those who enroll many low income students, and we found ourselves hovering around 1180 students the next 3 years.

So fall 2016 was a big jump for us with 1261 students. It included a 17% increase in new students, and 10% increase in male students. We also saw our largest on campus residential population since 2006 with over 700 living on campus, including almost 100 living near SUNO in their apartments.

I noticed on Twitter that a lot of HBCUs were posting significant, double digit enrollment increases this past fall. Again, we all had been lamenting enrollment struggles in light of Parent Plus and lack of substantive Pell grant funding. But this was also the first fall after Missouri, where we saw a national conversation about race take place after tension on that campus, and subsequently, tension on dozens of campuses.

Mizzou saw a total enrollment decline of 6% this year, including 23% for new students. Black enrollment declined about 10%. In St. Louis, HBCU Harris-Stowe saw its freshman class increase by 32%.

I will be watching as it will take a few years to see if this is a blip or a trend, but I had a chance to speak to a number of media outlets to provide some theories, including NPR, HBCU Lifestyle and The Chronicle of Higher Education, and several publications referenced my piece as they looked at local examples.

At least for Dillard, we are trending ahead of this year for fall 2017. Both admits and deposits are up, and as we continue to improve alumni giving that means even more scholarship money to offer students (which makes everyone happy!) Our admissions team, starting with Vice President David Page, admissions director (and alumna) Monica White, the admissions staff, and the financial aid team led by Denise Spellman, have done a phenomenal job this year! Definitely want to shout them out.

We keep working to take enrollment “all the way up!”

Written by

7th president of Dillard University

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