COVID-19 influences student enrollment

Colleges and universities across the country face uncertainty as college enrollment declines in response to the pandemic and its consequential economic crisis. Although the number of high school students graduating has remained stable, undergraduate enrollment saw a 3.6 percent decline from last fall. Greensboro College faced a 9 percent decrease in total new student enrollment in fall 2020. There is, however, light at the end of the tunnel.

Despite facing a total enrollment decline, Greensboro College maintained its steady increase in retention rate since 2017. Even though the fall semester saw a staggering decline, the 2021 spring semester was up 35 percent in applications and doubled the number of students enrolled for the spring term.

Asked how these surprisingly positive statistics could be possible in the middle of a pandemic, Julie Schatz, director of admissions and GC alumni, ties it back to the “Defining the Path” initiative and changing to a test-optional application. Through “Defining the Path,” GC realigned its tuition rate to $18,500, becoming the third least expensive private college in North Carolina.

The decision to implement a test-optional application put in place a short-essay alternative for students struggling to take a standardized test because of COVID-19. Schatz also stated that “last year, 2020, was an anomaly. We hope it is a year no college or university ever sees. However, fall 2021 is looking very encouraging.”

GC admissions administer a weekly report that captures where they stand on the admissions funnel from Oct. 1 to the day of add/drop each year. This weekly report shows that compared to 2020’s numbers, complete applications for fall 2021 have increased by 38 percent resulting in a larger number of accepted students for fall 2021.

Unlike many schools nationwide, GC decided to hold classes primarily in-person during fall 2020. Schatz believes that showing the public how this was achieved is also influencing new student applications.

“Moms and dads are way more important now to that college decision than ever before, and knowing that Greensboro College was successfully in-person in the fall also plays into the increase in our numbers,” Schatz added.

For the first two weeks of the spring 2021 term, GC decided to hold all classes strictly online which was a decision consistent with several other peer colleges. Students were allowed back to in-person classes on Feb. 3 if they submitted a negative COVID-19 test. One of these students, Sydney Rogers, a freshman double majoring in sociology and criminal justice, shared her thoughts on being a new college student in the middle of a pandemic.

When asked about her decision to enroll as a freshman in the fall of 2020 during the pandemic, Rogers expressed that she had made her mind up about coming to GC before the pandemic began. Despite having worries about education in the middle of COVID-19, Rogers was determined to continue her education beyond high school.

“I wanted to be able to continue my education without taking a gap year,” Rogers stated.

Rogers was also afraid of the possibility of losing scholarships if she decided to wait for the pandemic to be over. Rogers’ first year at GC has been unlike any other year’s typical freshman experience.

“I feel like I’m missing a lot of the social aspects of college life,” Rogers stated. However, she hopes to make it up next year by joining more clubs and hopefully being more active on campus. For now, we can all hope for a more hands-on and engaging student experience, free of COVID-19, for students’ future years on campus.

By Cristina Samano-Romo