University System of Maryland officials expect an enrollment dip at the system’s 11 schools this fall for the first time since the 1990s.
The Daily Record reports that the forecasts outlined at a Board of Regents committee meeting Thursday are attributed to a drop in high school graduates and other trends.
About 153,300 students were enrolled system-wide in fall 2013. By 2014, system-wide enrollment is expected to decrease by 1 percent, or about 1,560 students. But the dip is expected to be short-lived, with an 11.8 percent increase projected system-wide by 2023.
The biggest decline — 6.5 percent — is expected at the University of Maryland University College, which offers online programs. Increased competition in online education is already hurting UMUC, according to UMUC spokesman Robert Ludwig. In 2013, 6.1 percent fewer students enrolled than in 2012. Enrollment is expected to rebound, reaching current levels by 2019 and showing a 10-year increase of 12.7 percent through 2023.
“Online education is not the novelty that it was 10 years ago or even five years ago,” Ludwig said. “More people are choosing online classes, so it’s a mature market, but of course that means there’s increased competition, whether from institutions that are fully online or schools that are getting into the online game, both in the for-profit sector and from other public schools.”
UMUC has also been affected by federal cutbacks and demographic shifts. Its typical student is between 25 and 34 years old, an age group that has declined as a portion of the state’s population, he said.
Meanwhile, the system’s historically black universities expect robust enrollment growth. The University of Maryland Eastern Shore projects the largest 10-year growth of all USM institutions: 43.8 percent. By 2023, Coppin State University expects an increase of 34.7 percent and Bowie State University expects 22.7 percent growth.
Those increases would be reversals of recent trends. Coppin State’s enrollment fell by 6.3 percent and UMES’ fell by 5.3 percent from 2012 to 2013.