SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – More than 22,000 college students will call Springfield home the next several months as classes begin again this week.
So far, less than ten cases of COVID-19 are being reported among students and staff at Missouri State and Drury University combined.
During the first week of class last year, Missouri State reported more than 140 new cases of COVID-19.
“I think the next two weeks will really be a very telling story on what we would expect the rest of the semester to look like and frankly, as I’m feeling very optimistic,” says David Hall, Director of University Safety at MSU.
Hall says the significant drop in new cases is likely due to a few factors.
“Part of it is many people are vaccinated. And the second thing is many people have already had COVID, so they’ve got some natural immunity to that. I think people have been more careful about some of the things that they’re doing.”
Hall also says Missouri State has been conducting three times as much testing as it did this time last year.
All MSU students living on campus this semester were required to be tested before move-in.
So far, 34% of all Missouri State students have been vaccinated, while 52% of all students who live on campus have received the one or both doses needed to be fully vaccinated.
Hall says he believes those percentages are likely much higher since MSU has only been able to count student vaccinations from those who successfully submitted their vaccine status to the school, or received a vaccine on campus.
Additionally, Hall says 77% of all MSU faculty and staff have received the shot.
At Drury, one new case of COVID-19 has been reported since Monday.
The school’s COVID-19 dashboard says it was a DruryGO student who tested positive and had not been on campus.
About 68% of all students at Drury are fully vaccinated, as well as 84% of all faculty, and 65% of all staff.
Director of Enrollment Management Kevin Kropf says incentives seem to be working, but believes many in the campus community were some of the “first in line” to get the shot before incentives were announced.
“The incentives are helping us get over the top. I think we’re going to be 70% as an institution in a couple of weeks, and that’s something we’re going to be proud of,” says Kropf. “Because everyone has bought into wanting as normal of a semester as possible, and vaccinations will help us do that.”
Drury also let students know about a broader vaccine incentive program this week.
Kropf says if 70% of all students are fully vaccinated, they will receive one extra day off during their fall break in late October.
Enrollment at both universities was down for the Fall 2021 semester, reflecting a state and nationwide trend in recent years.
Kropf says college applicants and admissions have been on the decline since 2015.
At Drury, enrollment dropped 4.5% from 2020 to 2021, with more than 1,300 students currently enrolled.
“We bounced back with incoming students. We’re up in incoming students over last year. We had two large classes that graduated in a row, so we knew we were probably going to drop off enrollment-wise. We were projecting about we would be down about 50 students and were down about 50 students, so it’s nothing that we weren’t expecting,” says Kropf.
Missouri State currently has approximately 19,000 students enrolled this fall, which is down about 800 students compared to Fall 2020.
At Evangel, 2,134 students are enrolled for Fall 2021.
At Ozarks Technical Community College, the school reports just over 10,000 students are enrolled across six campuses, which is a drop of about 4% compared to 2020.
All schools warn these numbers are just a snapshot until the official census is tallied four weeks after the first day of classes.