Summer enrollment increases while fall enrollment remains stable despite pandemic

With the chaos and confusion that COVID-19 brought last semester, SIUE was concerned about enrollment for the Fall 2020 semester declining. However, new numbers show this concern will not prove to be an issue.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many courses to go online, Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Enrollment Management Scott Belobrajdic said his concerns about enrollment were not caused by this, but instead by the confusion the pandemic has caused. Sometimes, online courses are actually more attractive to students, according to Belobrajdic.

“The interesting thing is summer [enrollment] is up two percent over last year, even with the vast majority of courses being online … Our experience over the last few summers has been, as classes go online, we get more and more enrollment,” Belobrajdic said. “Taking online courses over the summer is more popular, especially with the [Master of Business Administration] program and other new programs. COVID forced us online, and students appreciate the opportunity to go online [in the summer], because they’re juggling life and jobs and plenty of other things.” 

Enrollment in the summer semester may have been positively affected by the pandemic, but there was still work to be done regarding the upcoming fall semester. Todd Burrell, director of Undergraduate Admissions, said his department worked with others to move the Springboard to Success program entirely online for incoming freshmen.

“The truly neat thing is that so many offices and units across campus have come together to help with that transioniton online, getting [the freshmen] enrolled and giving out online resources for them and parents,” Burrell said. “We’ve also been reaching out to students with webinars and plenty of opportunities to connect, not just academically, but socially. We will continue to do that up until the first day of classes, and maybe even after that.” 

Another concern regarding enrollment was the guidelines for international students, which Director of Graduate and International Admissions James Monahan said have been changing frequently.

“The international students have had a rough year, to put it mildly. The rules are changing almost on a weekly — if not daily — basis, which is always cause for a lot of confusion,” Monahan said. “Most international students want to come here for a full college campus experience, but because of the pandemic, they’ve got to miss out on it, as do the rest of the students.”

Monahan said although some of the guidelines have changed to protect students, there is still work that needs to be done to help SIUE’s international community. 

“A big issue is that most embassies and consulates are closed, so many international students can’t renew their visas. So, we’ve been offering online in the fall, too. We’ve been working closely with academic advising and the registrar … because international students have a unique challenge. If a class is at 2 p.m. in Edwardsville, it might be at 2 in the morning in your home country,” Monahan said. “We have also been working to defer some admission to the spring. By then, hopefully things have changed and they can rejoin the university.” 

Belobrajdic said all the necessary planning and changes to the fall semester caused some students to delay registering.

“Students had plenty of questions about fall’s delivery of courses, and that caused some anxiety about enrolling. Since class schedules have become more official, and we have been announcing all of this, we have gotten a spike of students registering and adding courses. There were about 325 in the last 10 days,” Belobrajdic said. “We think things were kind of delayed until we were able to get a solid plan out there.”

Some students have decided not to attend SIUE this coming semester, which Burrell said is unfortunate, but understandable. Regardless, enrollment for the fall semester seems to be on track with what it has been in recent years.

“Classes start on Aug. 24, and as we know, each day things change and affect each other,” Burrell said. “Students are thinking of taking semesters off or going to community colleges, and we’re happy to welcome them back if they’d like to return later. Although I will say, it’s encouraging that we haven’t heard much of that.”

For more information, contact the Office of Enrollment Management at 650-2043.

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