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Counting West Virginia University plus its affiliated campuses, total enrollment has fallen every year since President E. Gordon Gee began his current term in 2014, except for a less-than-1% uptick from 2016 to 2017.
Despite the overall enrollment losses, annual freshman enrollment and rates of students graduating or returning for a new semester have shown scattered positive signs on Gee’s watch.
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Amid a pitched battle over budget cuts, West Virginia University President E. Gordon Gee has defended his efforts to reduce costs.
The proposed cuts angered faculty members and students, leading the Faculty Senate to vote no confidence in Gee on Sept. 6.
The Faculty Senate’s proposed no-confidence resolution included several assertions about WVU and Gee. Here, we’ll look into one of the resolution’s statements, that "during his presidency, student enrollments have steadily decreased."
A look at university data finds this statement to be largely correct.
WVU data shows that since 2014, the year Gee began his second term as president, enrollment has dropped every year except for a small, one-year bump from 2016 to 2017.
That bump — amounting to about one-fifth of 1% — was made possible only by a gain of 276 students that year at the WVU Institute of Technology, a division based in Beckley, West Virginia.
Enrollment at the main WVU campus has fallen every year since 2014, dropping overall by 14%.
Also, in-state student enrollment has fallen every year since 2018, dropping by a cumulative 13%.
However, the statistics show some scattered gains during Gee’s tenure.
For instance, the number of incoming freshmen on WVU’s main campus rose twice in recent years, from 2018 to 2019 and from 2021 to 2022.
Also, the measure of "student persistence" has seen gains on WVU’s main campus. The available statistics divide the student body into three categories: students who graduate, students who return the following fall, and students who do not return and haven’t graduated.
From 2018 to 2021, the share of WVU students who graduated or returned for a new year has risen, though modestly.
The WVU Faculty Senate resolution said that under Gee, "student enrollments have steadily decreased."
That’s generally accurate. If you count WVU plus its affiliated campuses, total enrollment has fallen every year since Gee began his current term in 2014, except for a slight uptick of less than 1% from 2016 to 2017.
Two other statistics that are beyond the senate’s claim’s scope — freshman enrollment and rates of students graduating or returning for a new semester — show scattered positive trends on Gee’s watch.
We rate the statement Mostly True.
WVU Faculty Senate, no-confidence resolution, Sept. 6, 2023
West Virginia University, WVU Institutional Research report, accessed Sept. 29, 2023
West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, report, fall 2022
Email interview with April Kaull, WVU executive director of communications, Sept. 19, 2023
Email interview with Frankie Tack, WVU Faculty Senate chair, Sept. 20, 2023
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