Southeast Missouri State University sees modest growth in first-day enrollment

Thursday, August 27, 2009
Students walked across the campus of Southeast Missouri State University with Academic Hall behind them. (Fred Lynch)

Students returned to a more secure Southeast Missouri State University campus in bigger numbers this week.

Enrollment from the first day of classes at Southeast showed a 1.3 percent increase from last fall. When classes started Monday, there were 9,087 undergraduate and 884 graduate students enrolled.

Enrollment for first-time black students increased by 18.4 percent. There were 173 first-time black students enrolled Monday, up from 146 in 2008.

Since 2005, the university's first-year retention rate has increased by about 4 percent. This year, the the retention rate for black students was the same as the overall student population, about 74 percent, said Dr. Debbie Below, assistant vice president for enrollment management.

"That's a huge and very important goal that we hoped to achieve," Below said.

In 2008, the university increased its admissions standards for students outside its 50-mile radius. Below said the university is raising the quality of all students as a result.

"That has allowed us to recruit more academically prepared students," she said.

This year the average freshman ACT score is expected to be 22.8. The average score has been increasing since 2005, when it was 22.

For the third consecutive year, more than 1,800 freshman students enrolled. Last year's freshman class set a university record at 1,842. This year the number dropped slightly to 1,811.

Below said changing demographic trends will bring the numbers down in the future.

"We do see a decline predicted in 2011 and following for the next three years," she said

The first-day admission numbers could change when the fourth-week census numbers are released.

As students returned, Southeast also introduced a new emergency initiative. The university is offering an emergency text messaging service.

By Wednesday morning 305 students, faculty members and staff signed up for the system, said Roger Chisman, director of telecommunications.

He said the university is working with California-based MIS Sciences to offer the service. Southeast is paying the company $4,500 per year, Chisman said. The new system will be tested Sept. 2.

Doug Richards, director of public safety and transit, said the text alert system is one of several ways to communicate to students and staff during an emergency.

"In any emergency plan you've got to have layers," he said. "Your goal is to reach the maximum amount of people in the minimum amount of time."

The university also has an outdoor warning system to broadcast messages. He said Southeast is working on implementing a similar indoor system. The university also has e-mail alerts and satellite phones to use during emergencies, he said.

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