Enrollment through the Regional Student Program (RSP) remained steady this year in undergraduate programs at New England’s state colleges and universities, according to NEBHE’s Annual RSP Report, but decreased overall at the community colleges and at the graduate schools.
Notably, RSP undergraduate enrollment reached record highs at the University of Connecticut, University of Maine and University of Vermont. Other institutions with significant increases included the University of Rhode Island, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and Plymouth State University. Moreover, the annual percent increase in RSP enrollment exceeded those universities’ overall annual percent change in undergraduate enrollment.
Bachelor’s programs that saw strong enrollment growth through the RSP this year included wildlife ecology, physiology and neurobiology, biomedical engineering, ocean engineering, forestry and pharmacy.
Meanwhile, enrollment at the community colleges—which accounts for 39% of all RSP enrollment—decreased overall by 7% from 2014-15 totals. Only the community colleges in New Hampshire saw a modest increase (1%). In addition to the RSP data, NEBHE collected overall enrollment figures for a representative sample of New England community colleges, all of which reported decreases in fall 2015, ranging from -1% to -5%.
Although graduate enrollment under the RSP decreased overall this year (-3%), it increased significantly at the University of Rhode Island, especially in the Library and Information Studies and Marine Affairs master’s programs.
The total enrollment under the RSP this academic year was 8,958, down 3% for the second year in a row, following six consecutive years of increases. The decreases can largely be attributed to the declining numbers of high school graduates, which are having an impact on college enrollments throughout the region and beyond. The National Student Clearinghouse, in its fall 2015 estimated enrollment data report, found a 2.4% decrease nationally at two-year publics, and a 0.4% increase at four-year publics.
Through the RSP, New England residents are eligible for a tuition discount when they enroll at out-of-state public colleges and universities in the six-state region and pursue approved degree programs not offered by their home-state public institutions. At some colleges, eligibility also extends to students whose home is closer to an out-of-state college than to an in-state college.
RSP students saved a total of $58 million on their tuition bills this year, with a full-time student saving an average of $7,900.
More than 850 undergraduate and graduate degree programs are approved under the RSP. A significant number of RSP programs are in specialized or high-demand career areas, included STEM fields such as biomedical engineering, environmental engineering, allied health, advanced manufacturing technologies and sustainability studies.