Enrollment at Bloomsburg University has been on a slow but steady decline since the fall of 2013. The lower number of students, combined with flat funding from the state, is resulting in a projected revenue shortfall for the current fiscal year and a deficit for 2018/19 of over $7.4 million. University President Dr. Bashar Hanna discussed efforts to increase enrollment at a breakfast meeting held recently with community leaders.
Enrollment at BU for this past fall semester was 9,287, down 8% or 840 students from the fall of 2013. Summer numbers have dropped from 3,378 in 2013 to 2,854 last summer. These decreases are not exclusive to Bloomsburg, reflecting a general decrease in younger demographics across the northeast. One semester that has seen an increase is the winter semester, up from 517 students in 13-14 to 1,324 during the most recent session.
The University has been working on a strategic enrollment management plan to reverse this trend and support the long-term financial stability of the institution. Pennsylvania’s appropriation to Bloomsburg for the current fiscal year is $37 million, essentially the same as it was in FY 2007/08. The funding provided by the state represents 25% of the University’s total revenue, with the remainder representing student tuition and fees. In FY 07/08, the state appropriation was 36% of the University’s revenue.
Having an inviting campus and Town are important components to attracting students, according to Dr. Hanna. A “one-stop shop” for student services will be located in a new building that will be constructed on the site of the Centennial Parking Lot. The project, which will house several offices including those currently in the Waller Administration Building, is scheduled to begin this spring and be completed by December 2019.
The intersection upgrade at Lightstreet Road and Country Club Drive is scheduled to begin in May and be completed in August. That project will provide turning lanes in both directions to increase traffic flow. Funding is being provided through a grant received by the Town as well as the University.
The Town/Gown Relations Committee continues to meet regularly to maintain a positive relationship and identify ways to enhance the Town. Topics of discussion include parking, code & zoning regulations, student housing, student behavior, and town/university partnership opportunities. One issue Hanna has received significant input on is the annual spring Block Party. He noted that steps taken last year helped to reduce the number of incidents with police, admitting that one year does not make a trend. On campus visitation was limited to one guest during the weekend last year and several campus parking lots were closed or carefully monitored. Participation in the on-campus alternative event, Springfest, has also increased. Citations issued last year were down significantly from the 2016 event, and only 20% of which involved students enrolled at Bloomsburg University.
Among the issues raised by those in attendance were increasing positive interactions between the Town and University, and helping students feel more welcome in the community.