Faculty Senators reflect on declining enrollment rates

WSU enrollment down 4%; senators hoping to improve financial aid

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MEETING SCREENSHOT

“A lot of how we attract and keep students is how we help them afford their education,” said Saichi Oba, vice provost for enrollment management.

LIAM CONNORS, Evergreen reporter

WSU Faculty Senators discussed declining enrollment and upcoming payment plans during their meeting Thursday. 

Enrollment 

Undergraduate enrollment at public four-year institutions around the country declined about 3.8%. At WSU, enrollment declined 4%, said Saichi Oba, vice provost for enrollment management. Projected enrollment largely impacted the Everett, Tri-Cities and Vancouver campuses. 

Oba said retention is the linchpin to healthy enrollment at a college or university.

“A lot of how we attract and keep students is how we help them afford their education,” he said.

Next fall, students will have the option to pay tuition through a payment plan, Oba said.

“Do not underestimate how important this is to many families and students,” he said.

Oba said there needs to be consistency across all WSU campuses regarding admissions and available financial aid programs. One goal is making sure financial aid programs are not solely available to Pullman students.     

One example is the Regents Scholarship; while the Board of Regents oversees all of WSU, the scholarship only applies to Pullman students, he said. 

Oba said they plan on bettering their outreach and helping students complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and Washington Application for State Financial Aid.

“Washington has one of the most generous college grants in the country, but it goes unused,” he said. “We need more students to utilize that funding in order to get that funding they need to complete the FAFSA.”

Action Items

Despite some backlash, the Senate approved to remove the physics requirement for a basic medical sciences biology degree. 

Senator Heiko Jansen took issue with the decision. He said most graduate schools require a physics course of some sort.

“It does seem more or less an afterthought at this point and a couple students will fall through the cracks,” Jansen said.

Senator Silva-Lopez said it is recommended to take a physics class as an elective, and they are trusting the advisers to guide students who are interested in a graduate or medical school.

Constituent Concerns

Senator Paul Buckley raised concerns from the chemistry department about lifting the mask mandate for chemistry labs. 

Buckley said some chemistry professors believe that masks should fall under the required personal protective equipment for labs. This includes gloves, goggles and lab coats.

Issues include poor ventilation in labs and students being close to one another for hours at a time, he said. 

Buckley said Vancouver and Tri-Cities adjunct faculty teach the labs, are not covered by health insurance through the university and are concerned about being exposed after teaching back-to-back labs. 

Senator John Barber followed up Buckley’s question and asked if professors are able to apply their own mask mandates for their individual classrooms.

“WSU is under compliance with the governor’s mandate,” Faculty Senate Chair Doug Call said. “If you want to wear a mask, feel free to. Beyond that, I don’t know that there will be any ability to impose that.”