As Temple continues to face declining undergraduate enrollment, the university has increased tuition and made budget cuts each year in an attempt to mitigate consequences for students and faculty.
Enrollment at Temple has decreased by 21.8 percent in the years following the COVID-19 pandemic, from 39,088 students in 2019 to 30,530 students this fall semester.
“Temple at large will need to be more thoughtful about not just recruitment of new students, but also the student success aspect of enrollment management, and how we really support students from one semester to the next, from one year to the next onwards to graduation,” said Jose Aviles, vice provost for enrollment management. “But the most immediate pressing focus, without question, has been recruitment of new students.”
Undergraduate enrollment decreased by eight percent nationwide from 2019-22, according to a November 2021 study by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, a nonprofit that reports on education. Those numbers increased by two percent this fall, the first positive trend in a semester since the pandemic, according to an October 2023 study from the center.
Temple’s goal for the 2024-25 academic year is to see a five to 10 percent increase in enrollment compared to this academic year, Aviles said.
There are about 4,000 freshmen in the Class of 2027, so the university will need to add 200 to 400 more students next year to meet that goal.
Accessing information about Temple is a significant factor in increasing enrollment. Temple sets up college application workshops in high schools to demystify the process and is also working on shortening the time a student waits to hear if they’re admitted to increase enthusiasm about the university, Aviles said.
Seventy-eight percent of Philadelphia high school graduates want to pursue post-secondary education, and 80 percent of those graduates intend to work while in school, according to a 2021-22 exit survey for graduating seniors across The School District of Philadelphia.
“If you’re the public R-1 university of that region, you should be the destination of students that are in high schools across your region,” Aviles said. “Access starts with really being present in communities that we’re trying to recruit in as frequently as we possibly can, to build those meaningful relationships [and] to share the information that families sorely need. Especially first-generation families and low-income students.”
The Northeast region of the United States has a high concentration of colleges compared to the rest of the nation, The Washington Post reported. The number of high school graduates in the Northeast region is projected to decrease by more than five percent from 2012-27, according to a report by the National Center of Education Statistics.
Factors like these contribute to the competitive nature of the college enrollment, Aviles said.
To reach more students, the university began sending weekly digital and physical mail from Sept. 15, 2023 to April 30, 2024 to prospective students to encourage applications. The university is also increasing the frequency admissions counselors travel to high schools to recruit by 80 percent, Aviles said.
Temple’s 17 colleges have seen a variance in enrollment. The interest in individual colleges will be analyzed by the university in the Spring 2024 semester, so the university can make projections and use the data for future marketing.
“We are consistently talking to the prospective students who are high school seniors right now, to make sure that Temple is part of their consideration,” Aviles said. “And I’ve told audiences over the last couple of open houses that really, if you are admitted to Temple, it’s not that you could go, it’s that you have to go. If you can go, you must go to Temple.”
Despite declining enrollment numbers, Temple has seen increased diversity in incoming freshman classes. This year marked the fourth consecutive academic year Temple had a record percentage of students of color enrolling, up from 42 percent in 2020 to 57 percent this academic year.
There is also a record number of Pell Grant recipients and first-generation students in the Class of 2027, at 38 percent and 37 percent, respectively.
The Office of Undergraduate Admissions has taken a different approach to recruitment this year to better reach high school students by broadening the purpose of recruitment to answer questions about the college experience and application process beyond Temple.
“What we decided to do was to create different ways to recruit students, where one, we’re talking to them about Temple, and then also talking to them about things that they can use, or [college] resources that they should be looking out for, no matter where it is that they are going,” said Adrienne Castro-Moreno, assistant director of Diversity Initiatives and Community Relations. “[We’re] essentially building that self advocacy in the way we’re recruiting.”
The department has “unconsciously” taken this approach in prior years, but recruiters have used the self-advocacy method of engagement since January, Moreno said.
The number of overall white, Hispanic and Asian students at Temple have increased, while Black student numbers have declined within the past decade, from 22 percent in 2002 to 14 percent in 2022.
Moreno believes engaging with local high schools through these more informational and personal workshops will increase the enrollment of students of color.
“We’re still recruiting for Temple, but we’re also engaging with the student,” Moreno said. “We’ve been to multiple college fairs and the students were asking questions, but we were noticing that they were not being intentional about their questions. And we felt like it needed to be a more authentic conversation. And students, particularly in Philadelphia, actually value that you’re being authentic with them. You’re meeting them where they’re at.”
Recruiting within the city also contributes to enrolling a diverse class because Philadelphia is a diverse city in general, Aviles said.
The university has reported that just more than 17 percent of the Class of 2027 comes from Philadelphia, an almost three percent increase from the 2022-23 academic year.
November is the middle of recruiting season for the department, when their efforts to increase enrollment for the next year are crucial.
“We’ve been very, very proactive in telling the stories and communicating through our [media] pieces in ways that highlight a rich diversity, the history of the diversity, that Temple has always attracted,” Aviles said. “I think students of color are always looking and asking questions about how they might fit where they’re considering. I think it is a great advantage that Temple has always been an authentic destination for diverse students, and I think it’s an opportunity for us to continue to build in that space.”
Student enrollment impacts university revenue, as tuition accounts for 78 percent of the university budget. Tuition increased by just more than 4 percent for in-state students this year as a result of budget cuts and the amount of state funding Temple received.
The budget typically increases by three percent, accounting for raises to faculty salaries and benefits, said Jaison Kurichi, associate vice president for budget.
The budget was cut by $50 million this year, resulting in a four percent decrease instead.
The university prioritizes student experiences and services when making budget cuts, Kurichi said.
“When we pick our budget cuts, [we] ensure that those services that are critical for that experience are offered properly,” Kurichi said.
Individual college budgets are also driven by their own enrollment. The Fox School of Business’s enrollment in undergraduate and graduate programs has decreased during the last five years. There are 4,632 undergraduate students enrolled this year compared to 6,737 undergraduates in 2019. The school’s budget saw a 19 percent cut this year as a consequence.
Temple has avoided resorting to job layoffs by using reserves, money saved across time from situations like position vacancies, Kurichi said. The Board of Trustees permitted the use of $34 million from the reserves this fiscal year.
“[Reserves are] kind of our way of buying time, budgetarily,” Kurichi said. “To say ‘Alright, we can’t cut the entire thing this year. So we’re gonna get some cash to get through this period in time.’ And hopefully, next year when we start building the budget again, things have changed. Enrollment projections are looking better, whatever it might be, so we don’t have to cut as much, so then we can not do something crazy we’d want to do or what draconian things that we might have to do.”