Troy University has hit a rough patch, with changes to federal grant programs and tuition assistance programs for the military, as well as online competition biting into the university’s enrollment. Enrollment challenges recently led a credit agency to downgrade its outlook for the university to negative.
Total enrollment for the university for fall 2013 was 22,000, down from 23,000 the previous year. At Troy’s Dothan campus, preliminary numbers for the school’s spring 2014 enrollment stands at 1,134, down from 1,299 the previous year. Enrollment at the Troy Dothan campus has dropped 398 students in the last few years.
Clif Lusk, university relations coordinator, said Troy isn’t the only university that has hit a slump in enrollment. He said colleges and universities throughout the state have experienced enrollment drops. Lusk said changes to the Pell Grant program that have eliminated the minimum Pell award to students at the upper end of the program’s income scale and changes in how the military handles tuition assistance programs have cut into the university’s enrollment.
Lusk also said an enrollment bubble that occurred during the depths of the Great Recession has popped, with many students returning to work, graduating or running out of aid money.
Lusk said enrollment drops at the Dothan campus can be partially explained by fluctuations in the adult learner market, the market to which the Dothan campus primarily caters.
Moody’s Investors Service recently revised its outlook on the university’s credit rating to negative, based largely on declines in enrollment and its effect on the university’s revenues, as well as declines in state funding. A report by Moody’s mentions increasing competition in the online learning market as a reason for Troy’s decline.
Jim Bookout, senior vice chancellor for financial affairs, said Standard & Poor’s, another financial services analysis agency, had affirmed the university’s outlook as stable. Bookout said the university has also taken steps to reduce costs, such as eliminating vacant positions.
Bookout said the outlook from Moody’s has no impact on the university’s ability to secure financing and the rating for its bonds remains the same.
The university also has some green shoots in terms of enrollment. New student starts at the university have hit a record high. That trend extends to the Dothan campus to include 333 new student starts.
Lusk said the university is also tweaking programs at its campuses in Dothan, Phenix City and Montgomery to go from semesters to shorter terms. Lusk said this will make education more convenient for adult learners.