World Café event discusses decreased enrollment

Mitchell Prosser, News Reporter

Enrollment numbers are steadily moving downwards at Winona State University and in order to combat this shift in enrollment, Winona State administration held a virtual event for students to attend to voice their concerns.
The virtual, called the World Café event, occurred on Thursday, March 25 and discussed the future of enrollment strategies.
There were 20 students and administrators in attendance, including Winona State President Scott Olson and Vice President of Enrollment and Student Life, Denise McDowell.
The event started with Olson speaking to students and listing information regarding employment post-graduation, enrollment and projected graduation statistics for Winona State.
Olson shared a statistic regarding student success rate, which Winona State has the highest of in the Minnesota State college system, as well as the highest employment rate post-graduation in the whole Minnesota State system at 94%.
Olson also shared a statistic regarding graduation rate.
The rate of graduation was predicted at 56% for the class of 2020, while the actual number of students who graduated was 64%.
Also in attendance at the event was Katrina Pfaffenbach, a fourth-year student majoring in molecular biology and psychology and is also a student senator.
Pfaffenbach said she chose to attend the event because she felt like she had something to say regarding this topic and wanted to give student feedback to the administration.
Pfaffenbach believes enrollment is down because of COVID-19 and students being sick of online school.
“I think many people believe college isn’t ideal right now, maybe because they didn’t have a good experience in high school,” Pfaffenbach said. “I don’t think its Winona State’s fault, it’s just a byproduct of what is going on right now. Enrollment is down everywhere and it’s just the view of people.”
Pfaffenbach also said many high school graduates are not coming to college because they want to have the full college experience, which was halted due to COVID.
Pfaffenbach believes that to increase enrollment, there are multiple things Winona State can do.
“[Winona State can] offer more in-person classes to increase enrollment. Also, having good communication with students and advertise more of the stuff our campus has to offer,” Pfaffenbach said.
The consensus of the night was that Winona State needs to advertise more of what they have to offer if they want to attract students.
While enrollment numbers at Winona State are currently down, it is also a trend that is seen at most colleges around the United States.
Winona State, however, is below the average enrollment decrease most colleges have been seeing.
On the contrary to what students believe, McDowell said the key to enrollment increase is to look at how the university can expand its portfolio.
“Winona State is a traditional residence campus by nature, but it’s time for us to start thinking about who else out there might want the opportunity to stack onto their credentials, like adult workers,” McDowell said. “We will always be the 18-23 year-old student campus because that’s who we are, they will always make up 70% of our portfolio, but 10% of our portfolio is graduate students and I think we can make the number grow to 20%.”
McDowell said she believes enrollment is down because people all over the nation are thinking of college as a luxury and not a necessity.
“The communities hit hardest by COVID are thinking of college as a luxury. We really need to advertise to these students that college is not a luxury but a necessity, to further your career,” said McDowell.
When talking about enrollment, McDowell also said the world is changing and the number of people who attend college right out of highschool is way lower than could have been predicted.
McDowell ended the conversation by saying, “parents need to understand that college is a way to give your children a better life. Anyone who has college on their mind can expand their portfolio and it’s important to do so.”