Dip in enrollment for Dixie State, statewide institutions, still tied to lowering of LDS missionary age

ST. GEORGE – The Utah System of Higher Education announced Thursday that the number of students attending Utah’s colleges and universities declined overall, but the dip in enrollment was not as significant as the system had initially projected as USHE released its fall 2013 third-week enrollment numbers.

Utah’s public colleges and universities have been bracing for significant enrollment declines ever since the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced in October 2012 that it was lowering the age at which church members could serve a mission.

Overall, the system reported a 3.68 percent decrease in its budget-related full-time equivalent student count, and a 2.16 percent decrease in overall headcount, which marked the just the second time since 2008 that there was not a net increase in enrollment across the Utah system. In all, 6 of 8 USHE institutions saw decreases between less than 1 percent and nearly 7 percent in overall headcount, while two institutions, Salt Lake CC (+3.14 percent) and Snow College (+0.13 percent), saw an enrollment increase.

For the second time since the fall of 2008, Dixie State University officials did not report an increase in enrollment the institution’s enrollment numbers. In all, DSU saw a 5.79 percent decrease in total headcount with 8,350 students, 513 students less of last year’s total of 8,863. Dixie State also saw a dip in its fall full-time equivalency, (FTE defined below), enrollment with a 5.42 percent decrease with 6,184 students (-355 students), compared to 6,539 students this time last year.

DSU officials attribute the institution’s decline in enrollment to a few factors, most notably the change in LDS Church’s mission age policy announced last year. In addition, DSU administrators point to an improving economic picture and job market, and the institution graduating a record number of four-year and two-year degree recipients from Dixie State last year, as other contributing factors to the decline in enrollment.

However, DSU saw a 2 percent improvement in upper division enrollment with 2,132 students, and a 15.1 percent increase in transfer students (+556 students). The institution also reported a 6 percent percent increase in minority student enrollment from this time last year with a total of 1,340 students (1,259 in 2012), and a 31.3 percent increase in non-resident students with 865 from out-of-state (659 in 2012), including a 62.5 percent bump in international enrollment as the institution is the new home for 182 students from 26 different countries.

“More students from bordering states and international students are finding Dixie State University as a destination school to complete their bachelors’ degree,” said DSU Vice President of Student Services Frank B. Lojko. “We are also seeing a trend in that an increasing number of non-scholarship freshmen students are taking more than 15 credits.”

On February 16, Gov. Gary Herbert signed into law amendments to the System of Higher Education Code amendments changing the name of Dixie State College of Utah to Dixie State University, making it the sixth university in USHE. In addition, DSU became the third open-enrollment regional university in Utah, joining Weber State University, which serves the northern part of the state, and Utah Valley University, which serves the central part of the state. Additionally, Dixie State will continue its community college mission in providing two-year and certificate programs to meet the needs of all students and the community.

DSU currently offers 25 baccalaureate programs. According to its press release, Dixie State’s new mission will pave the way to more and more bachelor’s degrees in the coming years to address the demand of its students.

Resources 

Note: One full-time equivalent, or FTE, is defined as any combination of 15 units of credit enrolled in by one or more students. For example, if a student is taking 15 credit hours, that equals one FTE. If 15 students take one credit, that equals one FTE as well.

Dixie State University website

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