How is the recession affecting enrollment and student financing at post-secondary institutions?

District Voices

Published September 1, 2009  | September 2009 issue

Upper Peninsula of Michigan

[O]ur admissions department ... is seeing many more people coming in who either don’t have a job, or who are looking to upgrade their skills to look for another job perhaps. ... Our enrollment overall is a little bit up right now. You never know how that’s going to shake out until September when we see who shows up. But we have seen increased traffic among people who are nontraditional students.

—Tom Pink, Director of Public Relations, Lake Superior State University—Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.


In general what we’re seeing and hearing is that two-year colleges in particular are growing in enrollment more than we’ve seen in the last five years. ... [But] the two-year colleges have an ability to expand more so than a St. Olaf or a Carleton or a St. John’s, because those folks try to keep their enrollment  pretty constant. ... There were definitely some stories about applications being down at St. Olaf and maybe St. Mary’s in the last couple of months ... [but it is] really hard to gauge whether it’s recession-related   or what that might be.

—Barb Schlaefer, Director of Communications, Minnesota Office of Higher Education—St. Paul, Minn.


[W]e have seen expected enrollment for this coming year up 35 percent over last year. We like to think it’s because of our marketing, but it probably has a lot to do with the recession; community colleges typically do better during recessions. We’re seeing financial aid applications up too. ... Financing is still widely available in Montana, but we’re seeing a lot of the banks that we’ve worked with for years aren’t making student loans anymore.

—Darren Pitcher, Vice President of Student Success and Institutional Research, Miles Community College–Miles City, Mont.

North Dakota

What we’ve seen is actually a pretty significant increase in requests from students. I think it relates directly to the cost of attendance, and in addition    a number of lenders have exited the student loan programs, so for those of us that are remaining in business, we’ve definitely seen an increase in our loan volume requests. ... More [lenders] are exiting every day; I’ve seen some announcements from large student loan lenders that are exiting the program over the next few months. But we’re definitely not the only lender left out there.

—Shirley Glass, Associate Director of Student Loan Services, Bank of North Dakota—Bismarck, N.D.

South Dakota

We’ve seen a big increase in the number of people planning to return to school who want to know what else they can apply for as far as private loans, et cetera. We spend a lot of time counseling them on their options and also emphasizing the fact that they need to realize that we cannot replace their full-time income for them.

—Denise Grayson, President, South Dakota Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators—Madison, S.D.


We’re probably going to be looking at a record in full-time enrollment. We’re going to see a freshman increase that’s going to probably be in the double-digit range. We’ve got a wait list for students who want to live on campus. ... Of course, the budget problems that they’re having at the state affect the way in which [public universities] are able to finance their education. ... Because we’re private, we haven’t had to deal with some of those same issues.

—Patrick Kerrigan, Vice President for Communications and Marketing, Viterbo University—La Crosse, Wis.