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Office of the President

February 18, 2020 – Enrollment Update

To: Faculty and Staff

From: President Gayle Hutchinson

I’m reaching out to make you aware of a potential decline in Chico State enrollment for the fall 2020 semester—and to communicate the proactive steps we’re taking as a University to ensure the best possible outcome.

As I mentioned during my State of the University address earlier this month, Chico State experienced a small enrollment drop during the 2018-19 academic year. The residual effects of the devastating Camp Fire were a factor but, as I also pointed out in my address, national and statewide enrollment declines are a growing challenge to which Chico State isn’t immune.

The difficult higher-education realities with which we must contend include:

  • College enrollment nationally has decreased for the eighth consecutive year—and the number of high school graduates is expected to plateau until 2023.
  • California had the second-largest decrease in university enrollment for spring 2019, behind Florida.
  • Community colleges are providing an attractive two years of free tuition, which appears to be impacting numbers of first-time freshman applications CSU-wide.
  • The UC system is bolstering recruitment efforts to satisfy mandated increases for in-state students. 

The University has been monitoring these enrollment trends very closely for some time and we proactively planned for them while developing our enrollment and budget projections for the 2019-2020 academic year. As we enter the 2020-2021 enrollment planning cycle, we note that applications for first-time freshman and transfer students are down for fall 2020. These recent projections point to the possibility of continued enrollment reductions for the fall semester.

Chico State isn’t alone, however. Current projections for the CSU system overall show the potential for more than a 7% decline in applications for first-time freshman and transfer students for the fall 2020 semester when compared to 2019.

In addition to conservative budget planning, we’re launching a marketing campaign to motivate admitted students to enroll at Chico State, as well as providing additional staffing resources to the Office of Admissions to expedite admitted-student verification and processing. Our on-campus events for admitted students are some of the most effective ways to recruit new Wildcats, so plans are underway to make these in-person events even better. We are also looking at creative ways to boost the number of students transferring from other campuses.

You will receive updates about our efforts to make fall 2020 enrollment as strong as possible in the face of varying national, statewide, and CSU-wide trends.

In the meantime, please remember that strong enrollment at Chico State isn’t solely the responsibility of offices such as the Office of Admissions, Registrar, Enrollment Management, Budget, or Financial Aid. It’s our collective responsibility. We must have strategic enrollment and retention conversations at all levels—from divisions, to colleges, to departments, and more.

Every conversation you have is an opportunity to showcase our strengths, highlight student opportunities on campus, and further our engagement across the North State. A smile, a greeting, and an acknowledgement of our beautiful campus mean a lot to our prospective students and their families.

The more we work together, the more successful we will become at student recruitment, retention, and graduation—and at weathering the inevitable enrollment challenges we and other universities throughout California and beyond will face in the coming years.