SEMO enrollment increases in ’22



CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO – Southeast Missouri State University’s (SEMO) enrollment growth in key areas for fall 2022 is on the uptick, according to census figures presented to the board of governors today by Dr. Debbie Below, Southeast vice president for enrollment management and student success.

Total headcount at the university increased by 1 percent with full-time equivalent remaining flat compared to fall 2021. Below said those numbers tell a positive story for SEMO.

“We can’t emphasize strongly enough the competitive landscape in higher education right now,” Below said. “To have any increase is an enormous success. It’s the result of a lot of strategic work to show how Southeast blends its groundbreaking academic programs with a commitment to affordable education to prepare students for careers in a new economy.”

Below said three areas showed notable increases for the university and are responsible for the positive numbers. High school dual-credit enrollment increased 16 percent. Graduate headcount increased 20 percent, while international enrollment saw the largest increase at 56 percent. Below said while university officials were pleasantly surprised with the size of growth, it didn’t happen without effort.

“In each of these areas, we made strategic decisions to invest,” she said. “Southeast adopted a new Early College Program model that has eased the registration process for students and families and created customized solutions for high schools in our region. In addition, we have new leadership in our Early College office really focusing on partnering with our high schools to serve them and their students.”

The increase in graduate enrollment achieves a goal the institution set for itself three years ago to increase graduate enrollment by 20 percent, with the population now making up 15 percent of the university’s enrollment numbers.

“We knew we had capacity in our graduate programs,” said Below, “and honestly, we knew we had quality programs to offer. We invested in supporting and advertising the programs and increasing communications to show how we could assist students working toward that next level in their education and career.”

The largest enrollment growth occurred in international students with more than 1,000 students now studying on the Southeast campus. Below says the increase is due partially to travel restrictions and hesitations decreasing as the COVID-19 pandemic begins to recede along with interest in new academic programs that Southeast has developed in recent years.

“Our computer science program is of particular interest to many international students. It’s accredited and led by highly qualified faculty. Our cybersecurity program has been recognized by the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency for excellence. The State of Missouri designated Southeast as having a statewide mission in delivering computer science and cybersecurity. When you couple that quality with our affordable cost and safe, welcoming environment, it’s a very attractive package for international students interested in the field,” Below said.

While not as extensive, Below said evidence of that academic quality is seen in enrollment increases to many undergraduate programs across campus this fall.

  • Majors in Kinesiology, Nutrition and Recreation increased by 3 percent.
  • Majors in Psychology increased 8 percent.
  • Majors in Computer Science increased by 10 percent.
  • Majors in Chemistry and Physics increased by 12 percent.
  • Majors in Professional Pilot increased by 61 percent.

“As high-school students are weighing the value of college, universities have to be mindful of the role cost and flexibility of delivery play in that decision. That’s why we have created generous scholarship programs and offer more than 60 programs fully online,” said Below. “But we also have to stay focused on why students pursue an education. Southeast is showing we prepare students for tomorrow’s careers. Our programs are aligned with what employers want. Our majors provide students with the skills necessary to succeed in a rapidly evolving economy. And, our departments are creating opportunities in emerging and high demand fields.”

Below said the new program in Agribusiness: Horticulture and Cannabis is such an example, attracting 16 students in its inaugural year. The program prepares students for laboratory work in the growing industry and emphasizes the role of hemp as a biodegradable alternative to plastic.

“This innovation is yet another example of our groundbreaking academic programs that truly make Southeast a smart investment for students,” said Below.

Prospective students interested in discovering more about Southeast can talk with faculty and learn about programs at Show Me Day on Saturday, Oct. 1. For more information, visit


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