Missouri universities are expecting mixed enrollment reports this fall, but perhaps none more pronounced than that of Missouri Southern State University, where total headcount could drop sharply.

Despite a 6.2% increase in the number of student applications to MSSU from August 2018 to Aug. 15 of this year, officials are projecting a 7.5% decline in actual enrollment this fall, according to information presented last week at the university's faculty and staff meeting. They said enrollment at this time last year was 5,594, and it has dropped to 5,173 so far this year.

The university said it believes the drop is a lingering effect of two years' worth of high tuition increases. The current academic year and last year each saw tuition rates increase by approximately $20 per credit hour for in-state students, and officials had banked on an enrollment decline of about 5% as a result.

"Knowing the tuition increase over the last few years, we were anticipating that dip," said Brad Hodson, executive vice president.

Missouri State University officials also are expecting their first enrollment decline this fall in more than 20 years. Missouri State President Clif Smart said enrollment will likely be down by 2.5% to 3%, and he added that the Springfield university may have to cut some staff because of the lower enrollment.

The University of Missouri at Columbia, meanwhile, is reporting preliminary increases in enrollment.

The 5,459 freshmen who started the semester this week at the Columbia campus helped to increase the freshman class by more than 16% compared with that of last year, marking the second year in a row the university has experienced double-digit percentage freshman enrollment growth.

Overall enrollment at Mizzou increased approximately 1%, with a total of 29,677 students on campus, the university announced.

Official fall headcount totals will be available after the 20th day of the semester, which is Sept. 13.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Emily Younker is the assistant metro editor at the Joplin Globe. Contact: eyounker AT joplinglobe DOT com.

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