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After pandemic drop, local universities hope to boost enrollment

We spoke to Augusta University and USC-Aiken about their drop in enrollment. Here’s what they...
We spoke to Augusta University and USC-Aiken about their drop in enrollment. Here’s what they say about getting more students through the doors.(WIS File Photo)
Published: Jun. 2, 2022 at 7:15 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The National Student Clearing House Research Center says enrollment at colleges and universities was down nearly 5 percent this spring compared to 2021.

Even graduate and professional student enrollment dipped. At our local schools, it’s a similar story with enrollment dropping at both Augusta University and USC-Aiken.

AU President Brooks Keel says the school hopes to rebound and have increased enrollment year after year.

We’ve spoken to both universities. Here’s what they’re saying about getting more students through the doors.

Still stemming from the pandemic, four-year undergraduate programs are still trying to get back off their feet and students back into the classroom.

According to AU’s enrollment statistics, the Jags saw a three percent drop in undergraduate enrollment from fall 2020 to 2021. This school year, there’s also been a 12 percent drop in the undergrad nursing program.

“There were just some challenges. I think for all of us, whether those be mental health challenges, challenges with just feeling comfortable coming to class,” said AU’s Vice-President for Enrollment and Student Affairs, Dr. Susan Davies.

Across the river, they’re also seeing some empty desks.

Dan Robb, associate vice chancellor for enrollment USC-Aiken said: “We were just short of 4,000 overall students, right before the pandemic. We only slipped 50 students or something during the pandemic, but we grew every year before that.”

Once colleges get the students in the door, it’s even harder to keep them. Augusta University’s current retention rate sits at about 70 percent.

“I’ve been doing this for more than 30 years. And those were challenging years,” he said.

Davies said: “You see that the larger percentage of students would lead after their first year, once they stay their second year or their third year, they’ve probably found that sense of belongingness. They found their place, their major, they feel very committed to their degree and their program pathway.”

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