Simpson struggles with enrollment


by Kimberly Kurimski

While Iowa State University is reporting a record enrollment increase of 4.2 percent, Simpson College is reporting a deficit of 7.9 in enrollment.

According to Simpson College President John Byrd, Simpson has 1,398 full-time students, 468 part-time students for a total enrollment of 1,866.

At this time last year, Simpson College had 1,489 full-time students and 526 part-time students for a total of 2,015 students.

That’s a difference of 159 students, which is approximately an 8 percent loss in enrollment.

“Last year we had 362 freshmen and this year we have 332,” Byrd said. “We dropped 30 freshmen in the class.”

The freshmen class alone suffered an 8.3 percent loss in enrollment.

Steve Griffith, senior vice president and dean of academic affairs, said Simpson’s enrollment has decreased mainly due to the poor economy.

“The economy is really making it difficult for students everywhere,” Griffith said. “It’s harder to get student loans.”

The budget is based largely on enrollment, and because numbers are low, cuts had to be made.

“Because of the budget deficit being a little short, everyone in the college had to go back and say, ‘Okay, what could we postpone or give up?’” Griffith said.

Simpson employees won’t get a budgeted 2 percent raise this fall due to the fact that enrollment goals haven’t been met.

“When the president and others were talking about budget projections for this year, we were told that the board of trustees was looking at a budget model that included a 2 percent salary increase, assuming that we met enrollment goals,” Associate Professor of Religion Jan Everhart said.

Another cut includes a 20 percent reduction for Simpson Forum events and other speaking events, and there’s less money in the professional travel budget.

“For us, a small 5 percent change in enrollment in a year is not a disastrous situation for the college,” Byrd said. “We’re able to handle it, but we do need to look forward and say, ‘Well, if we’re going to be at that level for an extended period of time then we’ll probably need to make some adjustments.’”

However, faculty and staff are working to build Simpson’s numbers back up.

“Faculty have been engaged in a special effort with the folks in admissions to see if we can’t get more faculty involved in that [recruitment] process,” Griffith said.

Faculty aren’t the only ones calling prospective students.

“I’m calling every accepted student to the college,” Byrd said. “I’ve already called about a hundred (students).”

The admissions department is also changing its recruitment process this year. They added visit programs, scholarship interview day and admitted student days.

“One of the visit days that we’ve added is called Experience Simpson,” Vice President for Enrollment Deb Tierney said. “It’s a program on homecoming that will incorporate alumni.”

Director of Recruitment Cole Zimmerman explains what Experience Simpson would entail.

“Basically what’s going to happen is there will be an opportunity for those students and parents to interact with alumni,” Zimmerman said.

This is also helping tell prospective students the “Simpson story.”    

Enrollment isn’t the only low number Simpson has this year.

“Retention is also down, so it’s not only the incoming students,” Griffith said.

Although numbers look low for Simpson now, many have faith that Simpson will prevail.

“I’m absolutely convinced that the enrollment next fall will be higher than it was this fall,” Byrd said.