Mid-Missouri colleges report record applicants despite poor economy

The costs of higher education has skyrocketed in recent years, and admissions represenatives at mid-Missouri colleges and universities are reporting a record amount of applicants in a bad economy.

KRCG found out just how many more applications college officials are seeing and why that may be.

College admissions representatives say each new academic year brings a small increase in the number of applications they receive. But many never expected an increase like this, especially with the economic downturn.

"We have received more applications this year at the end of January than we received for the entire year last year," says George Wolf, Vice President and Dean of Enrollment Services at Westminster College.

Westminster has received 1,061 applications. That's 397 more than this time last year, about a 60 percent increase.

"Oftentimes the economy actually pushes students to college for re-education or to improve their resume and putting additional education and additional degrees behind what they currently have," says Wolf.

And is seems this trend is the same across mid-Missouri.

At this time, Linn State Technical College has received 827 applications for this fall. That's 130 more than they had in February 2008.

And the University of Missouri-Columbia is no different. Just over 15,200 freshman applications have been submitted. That's 1,940 more than this time last year.

Officials at the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla tell me they have received 2,429 applications. That's 301 more than February 2008.

State Fair Community College also reports an increase. 524 applications have been received. That's up 150 from this time last year.

I wanted to know why this was the case. And I asked admissions officials what they were hearing from high school counselors and student applicants.

"I think they're starting, maybe more so than a few years ago, starting to look more into the future and what do I need to do to achieve a goal and what institution is going to help me achieve where I'd like to be in six, seven, ten years," says Wolf.

Admissions representatives also tell me many students are realizing the limited number of jobs available now. They say that is pushing some students away from the work force and into higher education.

Admissions officials also tell me students are applying to more colleges to see which option is the most affordable and where they can get the best deal. Free online applications also make the process much easier than in the past.

Financial aid and the ability of the student applicants to afford higher education is now the concern of many of the admissions reps Mallory spoke with. Many say they are pleased to hear a large increase in Pell grants will likely be available under the new economic stimulus package. Pell grants are the government's chief college-aid program for low-income students.