College students worldwide have expressed concern about returning to school for the fall semester amid a pandemic, but IU does not expect a large decrease in enrollment overall, IU’s spokesperson Chuck Carney said.
“We were expecting to be in the ballpark of where we usually are,” Carney said.
Although IU does not yet have totals on overall fall enrollment, David Johnson, vice provost for enrollment management, said the university has received more than 9,000 intent-to-enroll deposits from the incoming freshman class, which is a record number.
The actual enrollment numbers will be lower, he said. Every year, intent-to-enroll numbers undergo a “melt," meaning that students melt away and do not enroll at IU, sometimes because they double deposited and chose another institution, Johnson said.
IU received around 9,000 intent-to-enroll deposits from incoming classes in 2018 and 2019, Johnson said. Enrollment for both years was around 8,000 students. The incoming class last year had the largest enrollment numbers. Johnson said he expects this year’s incoming class enrollment to be around 8,000 students too.
“It could be the largest, or it could be just shy of last year or the year before,” he said. “That all depends on student behavior over the summer and that final decision to enroll.”
Carney said the university is working to address student and family concerns about the fall semester to get answers to those who are reconsidering enrollment.
“This is obviously a difficult and stressful time for all of them as they’re trying to figure out exactly what to do at this next step,” he said.
He said some questions about what students’ schedules will look like have not been answered, but they will be in the coming days. In the meantime, the school released a Frequently Asked Questions page for prospective students about plans for the fall semester.
“We wanted to make sure that if they were considering IU seriously, they had as much information as they could,” Carney said.
IU also delayed the intent to enrollment deadline from May 1 to June 1 so students would have an idea of what the semester would look like before deciding to enroll, he said.
Johnson said there are special cases during the pandemic that might cause students to defer a semester or more.
He said some students have specific health situations that might cause them to reconsider enrollment. A student or a family member could have underlying health issues that put that person more at-risk for COVID-19.
“That creates a challenging situation for some people,” Johnson said.
There are also financial concerns. The pandemic has caused a disruption in the economy, causing some people to be laid off or lose financial stability. This includes many parents, who may currently be unable to financially support their child going to college.
Some out-of-state and international students also have concerns about travel during this time and moving a long way from home, Johnson said.
Carney said the IU Office of Admissions has received questions from prospective students from all over the world.
“You can understand if you’re traveling from a good distance to go to IU, you’d certainly have some questions, given that there may be a little bit more unknown, just because it’s an unfamiliar place,” he said.
International students have other concerns too, John Wilkerson, executive director of international admissions, said. These include travel restrictions and inability to obtain visas. U.S. consulates are closed or have limited operations. Wilkerson said students must attend an in-person interview to obtain an educational visa at a consulate.
The intent to enroll numbers for international students have dropped about 13%, he said.
Wilkerson said the admissions office is communicating with international students and providing resources for current international students on its website.