Southeast Keeps Growing with 19th Straight Year of Record Enrollment

by News Bureau on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013

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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Aug. 27, 2013 – Maggie Eggleston of South St. Louis County and a graduate of Ursuline Academy said her first few days as a college student at Southeast Missouri State University have been terrific.

“I’ve been to a lot of the Opening Week events, and they’ve been a lot of fun,” she said. “I’m just really excited to be on my own. I like the independence.”

Eggleston is among the class of new freshmen who began their college career when fall 2013 classes got under way at Southeast Aug. 26. Total Southeast enrollment stands at 11,367 today, up 2.1 percent from this time last year. Today’s report makes this the 19th consecutive year of steady enrollment growth at the University.

Dr. Bruce Skinner, assistant vice president for Student Success and director of the Office of Residence Life, said 2,934 students are living in campus residence halls this fall.

A resident of Merrick Hall on the south side of campus, Eggleston shares a room with a view into Houck Stadium with fellow Ursuline alumna, Gabrielle Bernier. Eggleston says Southeast is “close to home, yet far enough away. And it costs a lot less” than other universities. Merrick was Southeast’s newest residence hall until a new 262-bed residence hall opened this week on the north end of campus, just north of the Otto and Della Seabaugh Polytechnic Building. Another residence hall, that will include expanded academic space, is expected to open next fall at Southeast’s River Campus. Eggleston is attending Southeast on the Residence Life Leadership Award and says she chose Southeast for the reputation of the Harrison College of Business and because of its sport management major. Though sport management is not in the business college, she hopes to work in the sports industry someday and is getting a head start on her goal by landing a position as the videographer for the University’s volleyball team.

Eggleston says she is following in the footsteps of her grandfather, Rich Eichhorst of St. Louis, a Southeast alumnus and former basketball player, and sister, Molly, who is currently attending Southeast.

After attending her first full day of classes Monday, she said, “Everyone has been so nice – the upperclassmen, the faculty. It’s made it [the transition] a lot easier.”

Southeast, she says is “an all-around good fit for me.”

Veronica Moore of Benton, Mo., is another member of the beginning freshman class. A graduate of Notre Dame Regional High School in Cape Girardeau, she was awarded a President’s Scholarship and says Southeast offers an affordable college education close to home.

Dr. Debbie Below, vice president for enrollment management and student success and dean of students, agrees, citing Southeast’s recent selection to participate in the State of Missouri’s Completion Academy next month in St. Louis. The Academy promotes access to higher education at an affordable cost while directing students on a path to graduate in the most efficient manner possible.

Southeast is one of nine colleges and universities tapped to participate in the initiative.

“This demonstrates the University’s commitment to providing access to a high quality, affordable college education,” she said.

“By the year 2035, 60 percent or more of new jobs created will require a college education,” Below said. “A campus-wide effort is in place to support new students – to help them realize success in their first year – to find the career path that is right for them – and to graduate.

“This is a special University, and the University’s faculty and staff are committed to offering an educational environment where every student can succeed,” Below said. “The reason we are here is to help these undergraduate students graduate from college and enter the career they are striving towards.”

A nursing major, Moore spent part of her summer volunteering in the pharmacy at Saint Francis Medical Center in Cape Girardeau to begin preparing for a career in healthcare. She says she envisions herself working in a hospital emergency room, a setting in which she feels she would adapt well. She says Anatomy and Physiology was her favorite course in high school and piqued her interest in nursing.

“I like to help people,” she said. “I think the emergency room would be for me.”

 

Also planning to major in nursing is new beginning freshman Carrie Johnson of Washington, Ill., a graduate of Washington High School near Peoria, Ill.

“After graduation, I hope to get a job right away in the hospital setting,” she said. “I hope to fall in love with my job.”

Johnson, who also will be a Southeast cheerleader, said she chose Southeast because “it was a good distance from home and has a good nursing program. And I really like the area.”

“I’m excited to meet new people and get a good group of friends,” she said.

“I want to focus on my education,” Johnson said.

Below says today’s first-day enrollment figures are representative of Southeast’s Strategic Enrollment Management Plan. The plan has goals related to the enrollment of a diverse student body that reflect the diverse global world in which Southeast’s students will live and work.

This fall, enrollment of African American students has surpassed 1,000 students for the first time in the University’s history. Total African American enrollment stands at 1,023 today, up from 948 after the first full day of classes in fall 2012. Keyeon Pitts, an African American student from North St. Louis County and a graduate of North County Tech High School, is among that group. He said he chose Southeast because of the diversity of the campus. It made him feel at home, he said. Pitts said Southeast’s costs, financial aid package and scholarships were also deciding factors in choosing the University. He plans to major in theatre and, one day, open a children’s theatre. He says he is looking forward to the new experiences college will offer him and new people he will meet. Morgan Patterson-Gill of St. Louis is another beginning African American student at Southeast this fall. A graduate of Maplewood Richmond Heights High School, she says she chose Southeast for three reasons: its affordability, comfortable distance from home and its nursing program. “The price is really affordable and you offer the same quality of education as other more expensive schools at a reasonable price,” she said. Patterson-Gill hopes to join the Peace Corps after graduating from Southeast and get experience overseas. Eventually, she plans to return to the United States and work as a nurse in a hospital setting. A nursing major, she says she’s excited about taking an Anatomy and Physiology course this fall. She says she hopes it will challenge her and make her more diligent in her studies. Along with its growing African American population, Southeast also is beginning to see increased interest from Hispanic students, Below said. First-day Hispanic beginning freshmen enrollment grew from 27 last year to 37 this fall. In addition, international student enrollment on campus is 942 this fall, up from 811 a year ago.

Also key to the University’s enrollment growth is the number of students taking only online courses. Below says 971 students are enrolled solely online this fall as Southeast now offers 16 degree programs available in a completely online environment.

The University also has experienced growth in students enrolled in dual credit courses which Below attributes to Southeast’s new approach to high school dual credit — online courses. She says more than 300 students are enrolled in this new format.

“The composition of the student body reflects Southeast’s commitment to engaging students in the region, throughout the Midwest, and around the world in higher education,” Below said.

Also among this year’s class of new freshmen is Matt Phillips of New Berlin, Ill., who is pursuing a major in exercise science with plans to become a physical therapist or personal trainer.

A recipient of the Residence Life Leadership Award and the Midwest Achievement Award, Phillips, said he considered playing baseball for an NCAA Division II or III school, but instead decided to focus on academics as a result of Southeast’s many quality programs. A right-handed pitcher, Phillips says he hasn’t ruled out the notion of participating in walk-on tryouts for Southeast’s baseball team later this fall.

In the meantime, he says he’s enjoying Southeast’s Student Recreation Center and the many food choices offered on campus by Chartwells Educational Dining Services.

“I really like the rec facility,” Phillips said, adding he is considering seeking a part-time job there.

Also joining Phillips among the beginning freshman class is Ellen Meystedt of Jacksonville, Ill. She has her eyes set on owning her own business or working for a major fashion company – perhaps Ralph Lauren or Calvin Klein.

“The business program here drew me” to Southeast Missouri State University, she said.

“Southeast is very accommodating and personalized. SEMO really stood out for me because of my admissions counselor,” said Meystedt, who plans to major in business and minor in fashion merchandising. “I always felt very comfortable and welcome anytime I came to visit. Another deciding factor for me was how affordable it is to go here, especially being from Illinois.”

Meystedt plans to represent Southeast as a member of the Sundancers dance team and is considering joining a sorority. She said she visited a few other campuses but left feeling “like just another number.” At Southeast, she says, “I felt like a student.”

“I am looking forward to learning as much as possible my freshman year,” said Meystedt, whose father grew up in Cape Girardeau and attended Southeast. “I always imagined myself coming here to further my education.”

Opening Week activities continue at Southeast through Aug. 30 and are part of eight jam-packed weeks of engagement events for new students that run through Homecoming on Oct. 26.