The University of New Mexico has reported its fifth consecutive year of enrollment decline with a 2.9 percent decrease compared to the same time last year, a recently released analysis outlines.
The University records report 26,278 students enrolled for fall 2017 — 782 fewer students compared to fall 2016.
University administration expected about 800 fewer students this semester due to Lottery Scholarship funding cuts and increased graduation rates, said Terry Babbitt, Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management.
In addressing the decrease, Babbitt said UNM’s four-year graduation rate for the class of 2017 is a record 29 percent. That, combined with a 30 percent decrease in coverage for the Lottery Scholarship, was a likely contributor to the lower enrollment.
The University has not seen an increase in enrollment since its 2012 peak when the total headcount reached 29,100.
That enrollment was achieved during the recession, as more part-time and adult students enrolled, Babbitt said. Babbitt explained that at UNM — like universities across the country — enrollment of those students has declined since the peak.
University leadership was bracing for the lower figures when setting this year’s budget. They were not expecting the sharp 3.9 percent decrease in total credit hours — the sharpest drop in over a decade.
Babbitt said part of that slide can be explained by fewer than expected full-time students and more than expected part-time students.
That small percentage of change “can have a significant budget impact,” he added.
Dwindling enrollment is an important concern for UNM, which has increasingly relied on tuition revenue to cover its budget. This year, tuition will cover about 43 percent of the budget, whereas tuition covered about 31 percent a decade ago.
This semester’s freshman class of 3,219 is the smallest since 2014, which totaled 3,132 new freshmen.
Brendon Gray is a beat reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers ASUNM. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @notgraybrendon.