Evergreen State College enrollment is down sharply once again


Evergreen State College’s enrollment continues to drop more than two years after far left protesters took over the campus in the spring of 2017. The latest numbers show a decline of nearly 500 students this fall when compared to the previous fall’s enrollment. The overall decline since the pre-takeover enrollment in 2016 has been more than 1,200 students.

Here’s the source for that information, which is Evergreen’s website. As you can see, there was a gradual decline at the school which started in 2010. However, enrollment falls off a cliff in 2018 and is now back to where it was in the late 1980s.

The campus takeover took place near the end of the spring semester in 2017. As a result of the story going viral, there were threats made against the school and graduation was moved off campus. The next academic school year, beginning in the fall of 2017, the school saw a modest decline in enrollment of just over 200 students, or about 5 percent. As a result the school was expecting a $2.1 million budget deficit. But the biggest drop was yet to come.

In February 2018, President George Bridges warned that enrollment was likely to drop by 600 students in the fall, i.e. the start of the 2018/2019 academic year. That would represent an 18 percent drop in enrollment (on top of the previous 5 percent drop). The school began making plans to cut nearly $6 million from the budget and a month later planned construction of new dorms was put on hold. When the final enrollment numbers were released for the fall of 2018, they showed the school had just over 300 freshmen, about half the size of freshmen classes in previous years.

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So the question was whether the big drop last year was a one-time reaction to the campus takeover or a more permanent problem. The new figures show a decline not quite as severe as last year but still the second largest in the school’s history.

President Bridges seems to be hanging his hat on the idea that once the “big classes” have graduated, the annual changes in enrollment will start trending up rather than down. There’s some evidence that’s true but by that point the school’s total enrollment could be well under 2,000 students. If you look closely at that graph above, Evergreen had just over 2,000 students in its second year of operation, back in 1972. It’s possible it could be back to that point next year and sink below it the following year. The school is being set back to square one.

Along the way, budgets will have to be slashed and it’s doubtful the school will be able to maintain the faculty it has now. Slashing the faculty and staff may become necessary but that in turn will make the school less appealing to prospective students, impacting the school’s recovery.

What’s truly mysterious about all of this is that despite two years of disastrous results, Evergreen is still sticking with the person most directly responsible for the meltdown at Evergreen. At some point, don’t you just see the writing on the wall and admit it’s time for new leadership? So far those conversations don’t appear to be taking place. Instead of replacing Bridges, I guess we’re going to wait until Evergreen has 1,800 students at which point the decline will be so complete that Bridges can finally claim enrollment is on the rise.

Honestly, I have a sense the wider media is going to ignore this for two more years, or however long it takes until that happens. Then someone will write a glowing profile piece praising Bridges for his amazing turnaround skills and finding the silver lining behind the hollowed out husk of Evergreen: Class sizes are small! That’s the story the media wants, not the one that shows woke politics lead to failure.

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