News & Politics

Mizzou Enrollment Declines as Other MO Universities Report Spike

Students cheer while listening to members of the black student protest group Concerned Student 1950 speak following the announcement that University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe would resign Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, at the university in Columbia, Mo. Wolfe resigned Monday with the football team and others on campus in open revolt over his handling of racial tensions at the school. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

The University of Missouri is seeing a sharp decline in enrollment even as other universities in Missouri report a spike. Enrollment was expected to drop at Mizzou after last fall’s racial uprising, but preliminary numbers released by the school at the start of the fall term are even worse than anticipated and the ensuing financial shortfall has led the school to propose major cuts to the budget.

This comes as many other four-year universities in Missouri are reporting an increase in enrollment.

Some universities, like Missouri State University, are experiencing an increase in students this year. The associate vice president for enrollment management at MSU said the Springfield campus is busier than years past.

“We are up 773 students from last year, which is a 3.8 percent increase,” Don Simpson said. “After official numbers come in in a few weeks, we expect that number to considerably top that at over 23,000.”

The Missouri S & T website said, “First-day enrollment of 8,640 students at Missouri University of Science and Technology is the highest in the campus’ 146-year history.”

The University of Missouri-Kansas City said it isn’t releasing numbers for a few weeks, but its website boasts the addition of 1,151 new freshmen and 1,040 transfer students for fall 2016.

Mizzou, on the other hand, is facing a near seven-percent decline in enrollment:

Administrators had predicted a drop of 1,500 in overall enrollment, but the actual figure is now benchmarked at around 2,200, a decline of nearly 7 percent compared to last year’s numbers.

Most of the loss comes from Mizzou’s incoming freshmen class of just 4,799, according to The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which represents the smallest incoming class in nearly a decade, with a shortage of more than 1,400 students compared to last year’s class.

To make matters worse, Mizzou is also trying to dig itself out of a financial hole of $32 million brought on by both low enrollment numbers as well as state legislators who proposed cuts of $1 million to Mizzou’s allocation of state funds and $7.6 million to the UM system’s administrative funds.

The school’s already tense relationship with the state legislature intensified last year after former journalism professor Melissa Click was caught on video harassing students and swearing at police officers during on-campus protests in the fall. Click was later suspended and eventually fired, but the damage to Mizzou’s reputation had already been done.

The protests last fall were a PR nightmare for Mizzou because the campus seemed to be fostering a culture of racial grievance mongering and PC bullying.

So it was perhaps not helpful when Mizzou’s “Summer Welcome” leaders performed a skit for prospective students that harangued them with politically correct talking points and doubled down on the racial grievance mongering.

The leaders told potential students that the protests against “oppression,” “racism” and “hate” were necessary to ensure that incoming students would not have to face racism. They said that the activists were shamed because “they care about the future.”

“The students that led and participated in those peaceful protests and demonstrations were simply fighting to make this school a better place for all of us,” one of the student leaders intoned.

Another student, who is probably one of many who will not be returning to Mizzou, had a different take when she wrote to the chancellor last fall describing her encounter with a group of Black Lives Matter supporters.

“Everyone has freedom of speech and expression,” she wrote, “but this was a large group of people. I know I’m not alone in saying that I felt very unsafe and targeted when I encountered them,” describing “people screaming at me from the sidewalk.” She wrote that “all lives matter and discrimination should be fought against,” but she feared “that group brought more division, hostility and discrimination than that one man [yelling racial slurs] could have.”

Parents of Mizzou students who wrote emails to administration heads last year would also beg to differ with the “Welcome Leaders.”

My daughter goes to school at Mizzou, has some night classes, and she is now afraid to walk around campus and go to class because she is white.”

That same day, a parent wrote to the heads of the university on behalf of her daughter, who she said was so frightened she was trying to transfer out of the university.

“My white female student is being mobbed on her way to class and shouted at while being pushed claiming she’s a racist solely because of the color of her skin. … In the last 2 days she’s had 3 cancelled classes so her teachers could participate in this nonsense. So we’re paying for our child’s teachers to protest instead of educate?” she wrote.

Glossing over these concerns, the orientation leaders reportedly performed their self-congratulatory, BLM-supporting skit to groups of potential students 23 times over the course of the summer.

As part of their efforts “to build a more inclusive community,” Mizzou has also made it mandatory for incoming students to attend one of their “citizenship trainings.” 

The program, which was founded in response to last school year’s protests, intentionally avoids the word “diversity,” its founder explained.

“Doesn’t matter where you come from, we are all citizens,” said Stephanie Shonekan, chairwoman of the Department of Black Studies. “So we decided to change the name of it and just focus on the values that make you a good Mizzou citizen. And if we can do that, then when anything happens, then we’ll be ready.”

In a press release Monday, the school put on a brave face, touting its successes:

“We intend to build on our success from last year, which included receiving more than $225 million in research awards, having several faculty members named to national academies that recognize their excellence, winning numerous national awards for our students’ academic achievements, and having the most successful fundraising year in Mizzou’s history,” interim chancellor Hank Foley noted.

He went on to praise his school’s “retention rate” as an indication that “students believe they can achieve their educational goals here,” boasting that students returned to campus in “strong numbers” this year while glossing over the concurrent decrease in new applications.

Parents of new students are probably thrilled to hear that Mizzou plans to spend $11,600 to rename its “unisex” restrooms on campus in response to complaints that the current label “isn’t inclusive enough.”

Henceforth, restrooms intended for use by both men and women will simply be labeled “toilet.” The change is apparently meant to accommodate student complaints that the “unisex” label, intended to encompass everybody, is actually exclusionary and hurtful.

“Unisex is just such an uncomfortable and outdated word,” MU student Sterling Waldman told the Columbia Missourian. The word, Waldman said, excludes people who identify as neither male nor female. Waldman serves as the social justice chair in MU’s student senate, and successfully pushed for the student government to donate $5000 for the sake of relabeling bathrooms around campus.

That’s not enough money to replace every relevant sign on campus, though. According to MU spokesman Nathan Hurst, it will cost at least $11,600 to change relevant signs for all 28 unisex restrooms on campus, a figure of over $400 per bathroom.

Because the school doesn’t currently have the money to do that (thanks to budget cuts that have accompanied the drop in enrollment that were caused by the backlash against the obnoxious PC culture), “campus facilities is currently working with students from MSA to identify which bathroom signs are of the highest priority,” according to the Columbia Missourian.