NMSU enrollment up despite declining numbers nationwide

New Mexico State University has shown a slight increase in student enrollment for the first time in nearly a decade, despite the nationwide trend of decreasing enrollments at universities.

The NMSU main campus in Las Cruces. Enrollment statistics at NMSU revealed a slight uptick in fall 2019, despite declining enrollment trends nationally. (Photo by Jonathan Coker/Kokopelli)

According to NMSU’s Office of Institutional Analysis, the number of students enrolled at all branches of the university was 24,010 in fall 2018. A year later, that number stands at 24,041.

While seemingly insignificant, the last time NMSU showed any increase in overall enrollment was in 2010. In the period from fall 2010 to fall 2018, NMSU’s systemwide enrollment dropped from 30,866 students to 24,010, a difference of 6,876 students and a net decrease of over 22%.

Newly enrolled NMSU graduate students mostly account for the enrollment increase. The number of graduate students enrolled at NMSU increased from 656 in 2018 to 782 this year, nearly a 20% increase.

On top of the uptick in graduate student enrollment, NMSU branch campus enrollment increased by a total of 26 students, another factor that contributed to enrollment numbers stabilizing. In a climate where enrollment rates are falling nationwide, these stabilizing enrollment rates are a great sign for the university.

In an NMSU Board of Regents meeting in October of last year, NMSU President John Floros and Chancellor Dan Arvizu set an optimistic target for 2020 enrollment rates. “What we’re suggesting [to the board] is that our target for next year be about the same as we are this year,” Floros said. “If we manage to do that for next year, that will indicate we’re turning the boat around and we can then start to grow our enterprise.”

To put things into perspective, University of New Mexico’s enrollment dropped 6.5% since last year according to UNM’s Office of Institutional Analysis. The 6.5% drop amounts to a loss of over 1,500 students. From a national standpoint — according to the National Center for Education Statistics — overall enrollment at degree-granting institutions nationwide decreased from 18.1 million students in 2010 to 16.8 million students in 2017, a 7% decrease.

NMSU’s 2019 enrollment numbers are bucking these statewide and national trends. The statistics suggest that NMSU is indeed at a turning point.

NMSU Vice President of Student Success Renay Scott said that while it is difficult to predict NMSU’s future enrollment numbers, the current goal for the university is to grow 3% every year over the next five years. When asked what differentiates NMSU from other universities, Scott said, “Focus. By making enrollment a priority at NMSU, the admissions staff have really focused on providing a good admissions experience. Further, NMSU has focused on recruiting students who will be successful here. We have a number of opportunities to improve experience once students are here at NMSU, and as we improve those processes and communications, we believe retention will improve.”

If NMSU is able to slowly grow enrollment each of the next five years, I would hope that the student body would notice more sections of courses offered at varied times,” Scott added.

The fact NMSU’s enrollment stabilized after nearly a decade of decline is a massive victory for university leaders, and increasing enrollment will lead to more opportunities and a great victory for students, too, moving into the future.

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