MSSU Enrollment Reflects Tornado Impact

September 20, 2011

Dr. Delores Honey

JOPLIN, MO (SNS) -The total number of students enrolled at Missouri Southern State University dropped for the fall 2011 semester, but University officials say the number is far better than had been anticipated in the wake of the May 22 tornado.

The total number of students enrolled for the fall 2011 semester was 5,591 students on the official census date that falls at the end of the fourth full week of classes. That figure represents a drop of 211 students (3.63 percent) from one year ago when 5,802 students were enrolled.

"In view of thousands of homes that were destroyed in Joplin, with many families losing loved ones, suffering injuries and experiencing serious damage to homes and property, we are relatively pleased with having less than a 4 percent drop," said Dr. Delores Honey, Assistant Vice President for Assessment and Institutional Research at Missouri Southern.

Dr. Honey says total credit hours enrolled dropped by 5.26 percent, also much less than university officials had expected, from 68,937 a year ago to 65,314 this fall.

"We are hoping as recovery continues from the tornado, our numbers will begin to go back up," Dr. Honey stated.

Following the tornado, Missouri Southern initiated a number of efforts to communicate with students and assess their needs.

A post-tornado registration process enabled MSSU to determine how students were affected and determine what could be done to assist them. Nearly 3,000 responses were received.

MSSU provided counseling for students in need of such services. Funding sources from several areas were used to support students, including the Missouri Southern Foundation, which has distributed more than $40,000 to support students, faculty and staff; and the USA

Funds program that provided $15,000 through the Financial Aid Office to support MSSU students.

A special Back to School Open House was held on July 27 to provide a "one-stop shop" for enrollment, which the University termed highly successful.

Dr. Honey says these and other efforts to reach out to students might have lessened the impact on enrollment at MSSU. Just after the tornado hit on May 22, some estimates had suggested an enrollment dip of 6 percent or more due to the number of homes and apartments lost and jobs that were lost or interrupted.

"We have gone to extraordinary efforts to help the citizens of Joplin and the area as a result of the tornado," commented University officials, "and we continue to stand by the community and our students as the recovery continues."