Low admission rates spark more outreach at Fresno State

Fresno State's fall 2022 total enrollment is projected to drop 5% from last fall semester. (Manuel Hernandez/The Collegian)

Fresno State is projected to have a 5% decrease in its total enrollment headcount for the fall 2022 semester, according to the Office of Institutional Effectiveness (OIE). 

Before the official numbers are released on Thursday, Sept. 22, here is the most recent data from OIE and what it could mean for the university. 

There are currently 23,916 students enrolled as of Monday, Sept. 19. This 5% drop is compared to the fall 2021 semester, which had a total of 24,946. This drop affects revenue for Fresno State. 

“This is the second largest source of revenue for the university’s annual budget after State [California State University] general funds,” said Debbie Adishian-Astone, vice president for administration and chief financial officer. 

She said any decline in enrollment affects the annual amount budgeted for tuition revenue. The campus earns $4,545 per full-time student enrolled in seven units or more in tuition revenue, which is net of State University Grants, Adishian-Astone added. 

This isn’t the first time Fresno State has seen a downward trend. From fall 2017 to fall 2019, the student population decreased by over 1,000 students, according to the OIE. 

However, fall 2020 saw the biggest number of students enrolled in the past 10 years with 25,341. Malisa Lee, associate vice president for enrollment management, said, “Fresno State actually enrolled the largest new student incoming class during fall 2020.” 

Despite the peak numbers, Fresno State has had declining enrollment since the fall 2020 semester. Lee said that national college enrollment rates have also been declining. She gave various reasons for this, including economic factors and COVID-19. 

“Many are working… and do not have the time/availability to go to college. The pandemic has greatly impacted students and their families — economically, socially, psychologically — and [prospective students] are opting to not enroll,” Lee said. 

She also noted that national data indicate there are fewer high-school graduates and students enrolling in college, resulting in increased competition among colleges and universities for students. 

In an interview with The Collegian, Fresno State President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval also noted how COVID-19 is a contributing factor to low enrollment. 

“Through COVID-19, we are not able to conceptualize the future as we used to before,” Jiménez-Sandoval said. “Meaning, we are not able to plan ahead and then have the certainty that things are going to come through.” 

He said that uncertainty and plans changing due to the pandemic have discouraged high schoolers from applying to any four-year university or community college, saying community colleges specifically “have been hit pretty hard” due to COVID-19. 

Jiménez-Sandoval also said that applicants must still qualify for A-G Requirements, so the pool of applicants gets smaller. However, Jiménez-Sandoval said the value of a four-year college degree needs to be recontextualized. 

“Our students need to understand, in very clear, concrete terms, what a college degree is going to do for them in the long run… It’s fundamental to how we promote the degree of Fresno State,” he said. 

Jiménez-Sandoval said he spoke with Jim Yovino, the Fresno County superintendent of schools, about low college application rates from high school students. They discussed the importance a university must have when interacting with students’ personal lives. Jiménez-Sandoval hopes to interact with more high school students throughout the year, he said. 

He wants to show them opportunities with internships, working with professors and careers after graduating from Fresno State, he said. 

“Our focus right now is reaching out to the high schools multiple times per year, and in reaching out to the students as well, so that they know what the possibility of a four-year degree represents to them,” Jiménez- Sandoval said. 

Lee said that starting in fall 2023, Assembly Bill 132 (AB132) will allow high school graduates to have an opportunity for dual admission with Fresno State. 

AB132 will allow students who attend a California community college to enter into an agreement with a specific CSU campus to transfer within three years. Lee also shared other ways the university has tried to reach out to potential students. 

“Fresno State has increased travel to high schools, community colleges and college fairs to attract students to Fresno State and to support students during the college application process…,” Lee said. “Fresno State offers many other opportunities for prospective students to engage with our campus through numerous conferences, campus tours and community events.”

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