Western Kentucky University's enrollment is down 2.2 percent for the spring 2013 semester compared to last spring.
Spring enrollment dropped 434 students from 19,640 to 19,206, the WKU Board of Regents was told Friday during committee meetings. While the number of male students increased by 51 for the spring, the number of female students dropped 485. WKU President Gary Ransdell said a brightening economic picture might be the reason, but no one is sure.
Spring enrollment traditionally lags behind fall enrollment. National data show an overall reduction in college enrollments because of job growth, changes in the economy, changes in the federal financial aid policy and the slowing growth of the number of students enrolled in high schools.
In Kentucky, the projected growth in high school students for 2010-2016 is only 0.9 percent, according to Brian Meredith, WKU's associate vice president for enrollment management.
The decreased enrollment results in a $880,000 financial loss to WKU in revenue. That loss is being covered by carry-forward funds, Meredith said. "We are confident that WKU's fall 2013 enrollment will be stable or higher, as a result of an aggressive refocusing of our recruitment and retention initiatives," Meredith said.
The university is attempting to land more transfer students. Even there, Meredith pointed out, fall enrollment within the Kentucky Community & Technical College System decreased by more than 10 percent from fall 2011 to fall 2012.
"That's the first enrollment decrease KCTCS has experienced in 14 years of existence," Meredith said.
Meredith said Tennessee's and Ohio's community and technical colleges experienced enrollment drops – 5 percent in Tennessee and 13 percent in Ohio.
Ransdell said WKU has been strong in female enrollments since the 1960s. He added that the fall-to-fall comparison number will be critical.