The number of public high school graduates continues to drop in Pennsylvania.
From 2012–13 to 2026–27, the number of high school graduates in the state is expected to drop by almost 13 percent. This is affecting colleges and universities in Pennsylvania as well.
In 2012, IUP’s enrollment was at its peak of 15,379 students.
Since 2012, however, the university’s enrollment has been decreasing each year. In 2020, IUP’s enrollment was 10,067 students which is more than a 33 percent decline from peak enrollment numbers in 2012.
Executive Director of Media Relations Michelle Fryling provided an explanation for this steep decline in enrollment.
“In a word: demographics,” Fryling said.
This demographics statement seems to suggest a class-based or economic issue. Things are getting more expensive across the state of Pennsylvania and across the United States.
This includes, but is not limited to, a college education. As income inequality increases, more people are only able to afford things that they need in order to survive.
College is not necessary for survival and, as such, more people are choosing to forego a college education.
One of the things that the university has done in response is to freeze tuition for the last few years.
“We’re also working to do new and innovative admissions strategies and recruitment and continuing our focus on retention; addressing enrollment is not just about getting new students, but helping the students who are enrolled remain, be successful and graduate,” Fryling said.
IUP is not the only university facing these types of issues. The vast majority of the 14 schools within the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) is facing the problem of declining enrollment which is attributed largely to the demographics issue discussed earlier.
PASSHE is making changes within its system to combat this growing problem.
One solution that affected IUP last semester was retrenchments at most state schools. IUP’s professorial staff was cut by nearly one fourth in a move made to cut costs and move IUP in a new direction.
This new direction is referred to as IUP NextGen. These plans strive to move our university toward being more of a science, technology, engineering and math school. This meant many arts, writing and specialty programs were moved to different departments or eliminated completely.
The state school system is also undergoing a consolidation.
California, Clarion and Edinboro Universities of Pennsylvania are merging to form a single university in western Pennsylvania.
Bloomsburg, Lock Haven and Mansfield Universities of Pennsylvania are merging to form a single university in eastern Pennsylvania.
Each of the aforementioned universities will retain its own campus and its athletic programs. They will have only one president, and various other administrative positions will also be eliminated in order to cut costs.
Act 50 gave the PASSHE Board of Governors the authority to enact these changes.
IUP will not face a merger, at least, in the near future.
“Act 50, which was passed by the legislature to allow integrations, specifically prohibits IUP and West Chester from being involved in integrations,” Fryling said.
It remains to be seen if the changes described above will positively or negatively affect the enrollment issues at IUP and across the PASSHE system.