ISU gets relief after end to record enrollment


Central Campus had six full tents of clubs for students to explore during ClubFest Sept. 6, 2017.

Danielle Gehr

Iowa State, after consecutive record enrollment over the past decade, will find relief in what administration called a “leveling off.” 

The difference between this year’s enrollment and enrollment 10 years ago for the College of Engineering is over 4,000.

Martino Harmon, the senior vice president for student affairs, said the college’s first drop in enrollment since 2007 is partially due to intentionally trying to manage their enrollment by becoming more selective. 

“It’s good that we’re still maintaining a good enrollment,” Harmon said. “I don’t know that the university could sustain, the massive growth like we were having a few years ago without the influx of significant resources.”

With each raise in enrollment comes a need for more space and more faculty. The College of Engineering raised some of their requirements a couple years ago hoping to end the significant growth. 

For other colleges, Harmon said, there isn’t really a clear reason why some went down and others went up in enrollment. 

“It could just be a product of a particular major or set of majors are really hot now and students are gravitating towards those,” Harmon said. “So, really it’s a little bit hard to actually kind’ve break that down by college as for the reasons why.” 

Harmon, who has been in this business for 22 years, said he remembers forensic science became popular because CSI was on TV. Any college that offered a forensic science major was booming until the fad died down. 

“I know what we are trying to do is become little bit more strategic in how we can be more predictive and calibrate recruiting by college a little more, so we can have a sense of where each college really wants to be,” Harmon said. 

Laura Doering, a former registrar at Iowa State, just started as associate vice president for enrollment management and student success. In the coming years, as she has discussions with the colleges about enrollment more information may be available on why certain colleges have a raise in enrollment and others have a decrease. 

David Acker, an associate dean in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said they were expecting the decline after seeing Iowa high school graduation rates decrease over the past few years. 

Harmon said he does not know if this has a correlation between this and Iowa State’s enrollment because the decline is slight.

“The decline in new direct from high school students is really a combination of a few different factors,” Harmon said. “I know that just about every institution in the country saw a decline in new international students.” 

Iowa State saw a decline of 102 students in new international students. He said this is fairly consistent with most institutions around the country. 

“We’ve been up for many years with new direct from high school students and at some point, sometimes you level off because maybe another institution is offering a really competitive scholarship program,” Harmon said. 

Harmon said South Dakota started offering in-state tuition to Iowa residents though he doesn’t know if this had a direct correlation with Iowa State’s decrease in tuition. 

Harmon said he wanted to highlight that the direct from high school enrollment last year, 6,325, was a record number. This year’s Freshmen class of 5,944 is still one of the highest in Iowa State’s history. 

“So, we don’t necessarily panic to say, ‘Oh my gosh, we are down from last year.’ But if you look back historically, that’s a very strong number,” Harmon said. “I think sometimes we get too caught up in comparing to last year.”