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Thousands of students did not return to Iowa universities during the spring semester

IOWA CITY – Thousands of students enrolled in one of Iowa's public universities in the fall, despite the fact that the Raging pandemic promised a very different college experience, they did not return during the spring semester, according to new campus census figures released Tuesday.

The University of Iowa spring enrollment of 28,320 is down about 7 percent from the fall count of 30,448, which was already continuing the steady decline in campus enrollment from a peak of 32,323 in the fall of 2017.

Iowa State University's spring 2021 student count of 29,368 is nearly 8 percent from its fall enrollment of 31,825, which was 12 percent less than that campus's peak of 36,353 in the fall of 2016.

And the University of Northern Iowa reports 8,680 students this spring, nearly 9 percent down from its fall enrollment of 9,522, which was about 20 percent below the fall enrollment figure of 12,000 that UNI had maintained. for years until it began to fall in the fall of 2018.

Although colleges generally lose some students from fall to spring in any academic year, college administrators have recognized the unique challenges facing students this year, and the equally unmatched complexities for faculty and administrators trying to keep their classes educated, engaged. and registered.

"Would you like to be home every day sitting in a chair, going through what we are doing?" UI President Bruce Harreld asked legislators last week during a discussion about the request for appropriations from the Board of Regents.

"It is difficult for us," he said. "Imagine if you are that age. It is difficult to teach. It is difficult to learn. It is difficult to stay engaged. And again we have courses that are really difficult. And so the result has been that some people have left."

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Although universities have made clear their mission to educate students efficiently, with the objective of Four years in hopes of limiting student bills and earning income sooner, UI spokeswoman Anne Basset said administrators are realizing that the schedule might not make more sense to everyone now.

"While our goal is to help students stay in school so they can graduate in four years, we understand the particular challenges the pandemic brings," he said, referring to the idea that some have chosen to take a gap year.

“The Office of Retention and Academic Support team has been actively engaged with students who have chosen to drop out, and we hope to have them back on campus next fall.”

Although About three-quarters of UI instruction in fall 2020 occurred virtually, meaning that only a quarter took the more traditional mode in person, administrators have promised a shift to standard university operations next fall.

Although the campus will maintain many of its new security measures, most classes forced online this period will return in person the next. Where all classes that enrolled 50 or more students this year were virtual, affecting large swaths of undergraduate and freshmen and sophomores, only select classes of more than 150 people will be virtual next year.

“The goal is to take as many face-to-face courses as possible while maintaining flexibility,” according to a recent message from the UI campus.

In addition to dropping compared to the fall semester, the spring 2021 enrollment numbers for campuses have decreased from previous springs, aligning with annual enrollment losses and administrator concerns about resources. as colleges are more dependent on tuition revenue and the state. allocations for its financing of general education.

Citing an enrollment cliff driven by demographics facing the Midwest prior to the pandemic, Iowa public universities have asked lawmakers to restore an $ 8 million summer cut and provide another $ 18 million funding increase for the next budget year beginning July 1.

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UI and ISU also plan to resume a five-year plan for staggered tuition increases, in hopes of getting more income from students, despite the loss of numbers.

Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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