In a world where higher education has become more important to success than ever, one might expect enrollment rates to be increasing widely. This is not the case, however, as perhaps the four most prominent schools in New Hampshire have all seen dips in enrollment since 2016.
According to the Keene Sentinel, Granite State College enrollment has dropped 11.4%, Plymouth State enrollment has dropped 10.7%, UNH enrollment has dropped 5% and Keene State by over double, has dropped by 25% with just about 1,000 less undergraduate students. I’m sure making sense of this is the number one priority for most administrators but this was shocking even as a student and I want to reflect on what I think this may be caused by.
The first thing that almost immediately comes to mind is the question of whether or not the 2014 Pumpkinfest is still hurting Keene State this much. In my opinion, maybe a little, but also for an event that happened almost seven years ago, I don’t think it would cause this much of a dip and honestly makes Keene a little more identifiable.
It surely did damage but as somebody who was only 14 when it happened, I wasn’t even thinking about it when I applied because it had been so long and then when I remembered that the whole fiasco happened here, I thought it was kinda cool. Now it’s been even longer and I seriously doubt it’s anywhere in the minds of most people who are starting to not even be teenagers yet when it happened.
Another very common explanation could be the pandemic but it just doesn’t really give an answer to why Keene State is losing double the percentage of students as their competitors. I think despite Pumpkinfest having been so long ago, it perpetuates what I think the real problem is: Keene State is just not seen to be as much of a serious academic institution.
For many people I know who don’t go to Keene, they see it as primarily a school for aspiring teachers with not much else for other majors. Especially for many people I know with fields that have much more of a STEM focus, they are more likely to go to UNH. Obviously Keene has majors for pretty much everybody and even allows you to create your own specialty if you want, but it seems like they don’t truly put many of their other majors at the forefront.
An example of this is the Sustainable Product Design and Innovation major (SPDI), which would absolutely be a draw for many of those STEM focussed students but chances are they may not have heard about it. Another example is the film major, which I know from some of my friends who have the major, that it is one of the school’s biggest majors along with being one of the only nearby options for it. The only problem is that they once again, don’t promote the major as much on the website to say ‘Hey, we have this major and you should come for it.’
I also think that they need to be a bit more particular about who they’re allowing in to be seen as a more serious school. An example of this is I know some people who came in with really rocky GPAs that were just let in anyway. I understand that they want to give as many people a chance to succeed but it’s also important to set a hard standard for the type of students you want at your school.
An example of this is the math requirement that I took (Quantitative Literacy) my sophomore year. Much of the class material for the first two months was just being retaught things that I learned in my freshman year of high school and it was just an overall waste of my time. Another example of this would be my astronomy class I took my freshman year to fulfill my science requirement. We were retaught very basic things I learned in middle school like the scientific method, scientific notation and it was only at the end of the semester, when topics weren’t being retread that the class became a positive experience.
Overall, Keene State needs to treat students like they are college students and not just teach to the people that lack the most knowledge. There have been some great classes I’ve taken but have had the teachers just go way too easy and not have the courage to challenge us. I understand it’s nice to have easy classes and I definitely don’t want to be given artificial difficulty in the form of busywork, but at the same time college is the most meaningful when it’s legitimately preparing you for the real world. And that requires the students to be challenged.
Cristian Valentin can be contacted at: