Fall total, economy could be a boost

Monday, November 5, 2001

A record enrollment this fall and a slumping economy could boost spring enrollment, Southeast Missouri State University officials say.

Last spring, Southeast had 8,713 students enrolled, up 2 percent from the spring 1999 semester.

Enrollment could be higher in spring 2002 than it was the previous year, officials said. Typically, spring enrollment lags behind fall enrollment because some students graduate in December and still others don't return to school.

Students began enrolling for spring classes last week, most of them via the university's Web site on the Internet or an automated phone registration system.

Within the first three days, the Web site, an automated system that allows registration by phone and a computer system used by faculty and staff to schedule classes for students received a total of over 3,000 hits.

No numbers are available yet on how many students have enrolled.

Sandy Hinkle, university registrar, said most students who plan to attend Southeast in the spring will have enrolled by late November.

Dr. Pauline Fox, vice president of administration and enrollment management, said the record enrollment of 9,352 students this semester means there's a larger pool of current students to draw from for the spring semester.

"That should translate into more students in the spring relative to other spring semesters," Fox said.

More marketability

Another factor, she said, is the slumping economy. "When there is a slumping economy, we would see a little bit of an increase in enrollment," said Fox.

People, she said, often go to school to make themselves more marketable or train for new careers when an economic slowdown makes it harder to find jobs.

Dr. Bruce Domazlicky, economics professor at Southeast, said that trend holds true throughout higher education.

"There is a tendency for people to go to college if the opportunities in the labor force dry up or are non-existent," he said.

Students can secure financial aid and loans to pay for college even in tough economic times, Domazlicky said.

He said Southeast Missouri and the nation are in a recession. Unemployment in Cape Girardeau County has hovered around 3.7 percent for the last several months, he said.

Still, Domazlicky doesn't expect the recession to last long. "We may see a modest positive growth for the first quarter of next year," he said.

If that happens, there may be little impact on Southeast's spring enrollment.

If the recession continues, it could give a slight boost to enrollment. But Domazlicky said an economic downturn could mean less state revenue which, in turn, could cut into the school's state appropriation.

"I'm not sure a slowdown would be very good for us," he said.

Most students enrolled in spring classes in any year took classes in the preceding fall semester, university enrollment officials said.

Southeast only had 131 students beginning their undergraduate career in the spring 2001 semester.

'Taking off like wildfire'

Online registration is increasingly popular with students, school officials said.

Southeast began letting students enroll on the university Web site last December, said Hinkle.

"We have the Web registration system which is taking off like wildfire, and we still have the telephone registration system," she said. "Most students don't come in person."

Those that do show up at the registrar's office in Academic Hall can type in the classes they want on a computer monitor and instantly see if the classes are still available or if there are any scheduling conflicts.

Hinkle said students also can ask for help from the registrar office staff. Students who show up in person can find out who teaches a particular class, something that isn't shown on the list of classes for the upcoming semester.

Kathleen Meere, a junior from Ste. Genevieve who is majoring in Spanish and wants to become a veterinary technician, spent her lunch hour enrolling in classes.

Meere, who has registered by phone in the past, stopped by the registrar's office because she had a bill to pay in Academic Hall. She also said registering in person is quicker than over the phone.

"If I have a problem, I can see it right away," she said as she typed in course numbers on one of three computer stations set up at the front of the office for students to use.

Unfortunately, Meere found several of the classes she wanted were scheduled for the same time. One class she wanted to take wasn't offered.

After nearly an hour, she had to leave for a class. Meere said he would have to adjust her class schedule for the spring semester later.

Still, Meere was glad she had taken the time to enroll in a few classes. The later a student enrolls, the more difficult it is to find available and degree-suitable classes, she said.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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