Evergreen State College: The school's fall enrollment is down (so far)

If you’ve followed the Evergreen State College saga you already know that the protests on the campus resulted in a subsequent decline in enrollment. There was a lot of back and forth about the numbers last fall but the bottom line is that Evergreen has gone from around 550-600 freshmen enrolled each year to closer to 300 in the span of two years. The question is where it goes from here.

Benjamin Boyce, who has been one of the closest observers of all things Evergreen, posted a video last week which offers some answers. Boyce got a copy of Evergreen President George Bridges’  2019 State of the College Address in which he discussed the school’s enrollment numbers in detail. And, surprise, the numbers are not good even though Bridges tried to spin them as showing some marginal improvement. “It’s the tail of this distribution on the right that excites me,” Bridges said while showing a slide in which enrollment is plunging.

“Last spring we projected an enrollment for this year of somewhere between 3,000 and 3,100 students. The exact number was 3,013,” Bridges said. At this point in the clip below, Boyce points out that what Bridges actually said last year was “it could be as low as 3,100 students.”

In any case, Bridges is claiming the average enrollment of 3,125 this year shows they beat the worst estimate by about 100 students. “That’s really good news,” Bridges said. But is it? Even if you believe they beat the worst-case estimate by almost 100 students, the trend is still sharply downward. He does admit “It’s going to be slow” but his pitch is that they are rebounding.

But Boyce offers a reason to think things will be worse, not better, this fall. He cites an email sent out by an Evergreen faculty member who wrote the following:

For context, fall FR [freshman] enrollment for the years 2014-16 has been between 550-600. In fall 2018 this fell to 309. In our science budget meeting a few weeks ago, David McAvity said the college was hoping for slightly over 400 FR for fall 2019.

Currently 213 FR have registered, so the college’s new predicted number of FR for fall 2019 (based on the enrollment rate) is 256. Note, at this time last year, 257 had registered, which turned into 309 FR butts on seats in fall 2018.

Of course, these are still estimates at this point. The final numbers could be better or worse but it’s safe to say an enrollment surge doesn’t seem to be taking place. If the projections are correct, 256 freshmen would represent a 17% drop from the already dismal enrollment last fall. We’ll find out soon enough what the numbers show but as of now they are not looking good.

Bridges suggests that he is looking forward to a time when “the big classes” have graduated so that the small changes in the incoming freshman will look like a gradual improvement. But again, that’s assuming there is an improvement year-to-year. So far that doesn’t seem to be the case for the coming academic year.

Here’s Benjamin Boyce’s clip: