Low-Engage Students Are a Problem at USC

California fall undergraduate enrollment declines have slowed, but still ‘troubling’ says USC professor

USC Professor Steven C. Perry points out to incoming students in the fall 2017 semester in the university’s Student Union building. USC’s enrollment rate is down in many major areas, like the engineering and medical sciences, to less than half the level in the early 2000s. Photo: Gary McGraw

USC Professor Steven C. Perry points out to incoming students in the fall 2017 semester in the university’s Student Union building. USC’s enrollment rate is down in many major areas, like the engineering and medical sciences, to less than half the level in the early 2000s. Photo: Gary McGraw

As the numbers show, California’s low-income students are a concern, as the University of Southern California’s president and chief academic officer said during a campus forum on Tuesday.

But the rising numbers aren’t being matched by the students’ performance.

At USC, undergraduate enrollment fell 5% in the 2017-18 school year, according to figures released by the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Southern California on Tuesday, down to 4,741.

USC Professor Steven C. Perry, who has studied California’s high school and college students’ enrollment trends, said the enrollment rate—which includes both incoming freshmen and transfer residents, as well as out-of-state students—has been going down for several years, but it’s still going down, although at a lessening pace.

That’s a problem because USC is not the only college or university with low rates of enrollment among low-income students, he said.

“It’s a problem at every university in the state,” he said. “It’s a problem in the United States. But it’s also a problem here because it has long-term consequences for the students and the institutions as well.”

“The problem with the low enrollment rate is that we have low-income students who are making up the bulk of the students at our schools,” said Eric Heins, who has been USC’s assistant vice chancellor of enrollment management and outreach since January 2015.

Heins pointed out that the 2017-18 school year saw a 3% dip in the university

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