Low student enrollment is not a new phenomenon at the University of New Mexico.
According to data from the Student Enrollment Office (SEO), UNM’s has decreased more than 10 percent, and that drop is reflected among University departments.
From Spring 2014 to Spring 2018, undergraduate enrollment at the College of Fine Arts more than 18 percent. They are not alone in this decline, according to the 2018 SEO Student Headcount report.
Graduate programs are also negatively affected by low enrollment numbers. The College of Engineering has faced more than a six percent decline over five years, according to the 2018 report.
Chuck Fleddermann, the associate dean for Academic Affairs at the School of Engineering, said keeping a student headcount is important to the department.
“Some of the funding mechanisms that keep UNM and the School (of Engineering) going are dependent upon student headcount — less students, less money coming in,” Fleddermann said.
Fledderman said that the decline is nothing for the School of Engineering to worry about because of how “cyclical” engineering enrollment is.
“Whenever the economy is booming, engineering enrollments (go) down because people have great jobs and they’re doing fine, and when the economy does bad then engineering enrollments go up because jobs become scarce,” Fleddermann said.
Fleddermann said foreign exchange is another part of the coin that affects engineering enrollment.
“The trend right now in higher education is foreign students looking to go elsewhere and are not coming to the United States,” he said. Adding that foreign students are looking to countries like Canada and Australia for engineering education.
In March 2018, the School of Engineering . Christos Christodoulou, the associate dean for research at the School of Engineering, said he hopes renovations will attract more students to the Department of Engineering.
Potential students skipping University enrollment are going elsewhere for higher education or joining the workforce, said Terry Babbitt, associate vice president of enrollment management.
Babbitt said to alleviate stresses of dropping enrollment, the University “would have to segment markets to include post-traditional learners, near-completers who have not finished degrees, military personnel and veterans, online (students) and a few others.”
Enrollment may decrease more and level off soon, according to Babbitt. He said departments could be subjected to budget cuts and layoffs of departmental staff if enrollment drops too severely.
The 2018 Student Enrollment report cited a 75 percent decline in enrollment at the University College, but the report said it does not mean students are leaving the University, said Rob del Campo, the dean of the University College.
The noticeable drop is from students switching majors, said Del Campo.
“Every...freshman came into the University College and we would have every single student not admitted to a major yet,” Del Campo said.
He added that four years ago students stopped going through the University College if they knew which field they wanted to study.
Now first year students are immediately enrolled in a college based on their field of choice without going through the University College, he said.
“If you are an exploratory major - or don’t know what to study yet - you start at the University College,” Del Campo said.
The Daily Lobo reached out to the College of Fine Arts and UNM President Garnett Stokes, but received no comment prior to the publication of this article.
Anthony Jackson is a freelance reporter with the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @TonyAnjackson.