Fewer freshmen are applying to enroll at the University of Missouri this fall than last fall after race protests roiled the Columbia campus, according to an internal email from the university's director of enrollment.
So far, the university has received 18,377 freshmen applications, compared to 19,318 applications last year. However, this year's numbers are 123 higher when compared to January 2014, The Columbia Daily Tribune reported.
Student protests last fall over the racial climate at the Columbia campus -- including a hunger strike and the football team threatening to not play -- led to the resignation of the university system's president and the reassignment of its provost.
An internal memo from Director of Admissions Chuck May said the controversy contributed to the decrease in applications but officials also said it's too early to accurately forecast what the final enrollment will be.
"While we don't have any clear data, we know that the events this past fall have had an impact, and we are answering any questions that parents and students have about those events," May said in the email.
May said increased competition, particularly from rival universities in the Chicago area, also affected applications. And the decline is entirely from out-of-state applications, with applications from Missouri even with last year. The fall applications included a drop of 78 black students compared to last fall but an increase of 24 compared to two years ago.
May said University of Missouri schools and colleges are calling prospective students this semester to answer any questions, while faculty and current students will attend recruitment events to share positive experiences. The university's goal is to increase its enrollment to 38,000 students from about 35,000.
Interim University of Missouri System President Mike Middleton said in November that he doesn't believe the plans to increase enrollment need to be changed in light of the protests.
"There are some parents who are reluctant to send their kids here" after events this fall. "I think the Columbia campus might experience less growth in the immediate future than they had projected," Middleton said. "But I don't think it's going to be a dramatic drop."