Mizzou’s Loss Is Other Schools’ Gain
2,373 students. That is the difference between last fall’s and this fall’s enrollment at Mizzou. It is worse than what was projected in March, when the university said that it expected around 1,500 fewer students this year. On top of that, as the Columbia Daily-Tribune reports, this drop is particularly acute for high-performing students. Mizzou reports 19% fewer students who scored higher than 30 on the ACT, and 13.9% fewer Bright Flight scholarship recipients.
At the same time, every other public university in Missouri is reporting enrollment growth.
Just a few weeks ago, I highlighted research on the effects of scandals on universities. We’re seeing it play out right in front of us.
So what is to be done?
On one level, this is a case of reaping what has been sown. You can’t un-ring a bell (and you can’t un-mix a metaphor, either). The leadership of the university patently failed at dealing with unrest on campus, and they have tarnished the school’s brand. That is something they simply have to live with now.
But on another level, this shows the necessity of improving Mizzou. If changes aren’t made, there is serious risk that Mizzou will continue to decline in stature both within the state and across the region and nation. Seeing that the best and brightest are choosing other schools (quite possibly outside of Missouri) to attend raises serious concerns about brain drain and the long-term economic and social health of the state.
Finally, while I don’t think we’re there yet, a conversation about Mizzou’s role as the state’s flagship might not be as far over the horizon as we might think. If students decide to vote with their feet and attend other universities, moving to a Kansas- or Iowa-like model of twin flagships might be in our future.
We’ll be watching these enrollment trends closely and offering some ideas for reform. Stay tuned!