Enrollment declining for 'no real reason'

Over the past 10 years, Valpo has seen a decrease in enrollment. In the fall of 2010, Valpo had a total of 4,061 students including undergraduate, graduate and law students. 

In the fall of 2019, total enrollment dropped down to 3,521. One aspect of this is the closing of the law school. 

In 2017, the university announced that starting in the fall of 2018, the law school would no longer be admitting students. 

In the fall of 2017, there were only 237 law students in the program. 31 of them were first year law students. In the fall of 2019, which would be the last year for those 31 accepted, only 16 remain. 

With this, we see that law students have either transferred out, or dropped out potentially due to the closing of the law school. 

According to Ray Brown, Vice President for Enrollment, the decrease in enrollment is not due to Valpo’s undergraduate programs.

“If you take a look at undergraduate enrollment it has gone down a little bit, but it’s been pretty much flat for quite a while,” Brown said. 

While that might not be the issue for decreasing enrollment, it’s interesting to note that in the fall of 2010, there were 741 first year students enrolled, while in the fall of 2019 there were only 587. 

Brown thinks the issue might stem from the decrease in graduate school enrollment. 

“I think it’s almost entirely due to the law school closing, and to a lesser extent, the graduate school,” said Brown. “Its [the graduate school] had its ups and downs a great deal over the past decade.”

However, Brown pointed out that Valpo is not the only school seeing the decline of graduate school enrollment. According to Brown, one reason for the decline is because in good economic times graduate school enrollment decreases as it is easier for people to get jobs. 

“There’s no real one answer to what’s going on,” Brown said.  “I can tell you that there is a huge movement in this country from bricks and mortar to online, particularly for graduate education.” 

While graduate school admissions has had its own issues, undergraduate enrollment has different problems. According to Brown, finances are a major factor in undergraduate enrollment. 

“Finances and enrollment are inexplicably tied together,” Brown said. 

According to Brown, college costs have continued to rise over the past decade while people’s wages have leveled out, making college increasingly harder to afford. 

“That’s why these last few years have become so problematic for colleges and universities,” Brown said. 

Despite the fact that over the past ten years Valpo has experienced a decrease in enrollment, Butler University, a small private college similar to Valpo in Indianapolis, Ind., has experienced the opposite. 

In the fall of 2010, Butler had a total enrollment count of 4,640, while in the fall of 2019 their enrollment increased to 5,518. 

While no one can say for a fact why some schools are increasing in number and some are decreasing in numbers, the university plans on making efforts to combat the decrease in enrollment. 

According to Brown, the school has begun efforts across the country. In the 2018-2019 school year Valpo had visited 335 high schools, while in Fall 2019 Valpo had already visited 670 high schools, with plans to visit more this Spring. 

In 2025, there is expected to be a significantly lower amount of high school graduates, due to lower birth rates. 

“There are a lot of schools shutting down in this country at a rate I’ve never seen. This is one that is going to be fine. For a school our size we have an enormous endowment,” Brown said. 

Regardless of the declining enrollment, Valpo will keep pushing for students and excellence. 

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