UOG enrollment steady as stateside universities face downturn

UOG: The rear entrance to the University of Guam campus in Mangilao is photographed in October 2019. The local university has seen enrollment stay steady, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, according to UOG Marketing and Communications Officer Jonas Macapinlac. David Castro/The Guam Daily Post

Off-island college students from Guam could be turning to the University of Guam to continue their studies in the fall as the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed learning off campus and online across the nation.

“We are an excellent alternative for those students who are unable to return to college in the mainland due to the pandemic,” said UOG Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Jonas Macapinlac.

Local high school graduates who were planning to study abroad may also be staying closer to home for their first semester of college. Though some like Hallie Wigsten, a senior at St. John's School who plans to attend Santa Clara University in the fall, said she would still attend the California school's classes online for a semester if she is unable to physically attend the classes on campus.

"But at the moment, with the way things are looking right now, there is a possibility that I will get to leave for school," Wigsten said.

For others, UOG could be an option that saves resources if they decide to defer acceptance to four-year stateside universities.

“UOG is an excellent choice for high school graduates seeking a pathway for their futures. Students can take our courses fully online or in a hybrid configuration and eventually – and hopefully sooner rather later – come back to regular face-to-face classes,” said Macapinlac of the college which halted on-campus instruction on March 30.

A recent survey of 573 U.S. high school students by an Alexandria, Virginia-based higher education consulting firm found a fifth of potential incoming college freshmen may not attend at all in the fall. The main reason given was the financial impact of the pandemic.

In April, the American Council on Education projected a 15% drop in enrollment in higher education in the upcoming academic year.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act provided $30 billion in federal funding for education, $14 billion specifically for higher education institutions. President of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Mildred García wrote in a post on their website that the amount “still falls short of what is desperately needed on our campuses.”

But Macapinlac said the island university is actually a “little ahead” in the enrollment for the fall semester this year as opposed to last, and enrollment for summer sessions is on par with last year.

In fall 2019, 3,563 students enrolled at UOG.

While the pandemic may keep local students on island, students coming to Guam from other parts of the world to study will likely drop off, according to Macapinlac.

“(We) do expect to see a slight decrease in our regional and international student enrollment, mainly because the pandemic has greatly affected travel,” he said.

For new or returning students, the tight-knit community at UOG may be part of the appeal during the global health crisis.

“One of the things we've seen during this pandemic is that our community of Tritons is like no other. These last few weeks has been a time of adjustments and adaptation – from the ability of our faculty and students to move all courses online this semester, to coming together in support of COVID-19 relief efforts, to collaborating with other public agencies, private businesses and community organizations to bring about innovative solutions that will move our island forward,” Macapinlac said.

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