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Millersville University’s enrollment slipped 2.8 percent from last year to this year — a decline that’s slightly higher than the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education’s anticipated drop of 1.5 percent.

But the trend at MU is expected to start moving in the opposite direction, as Millersville — one of PASSHE’s 14 member institutions — announced an ambitious plan last month to boost enrollment to 10,000 students by 2020.

The university’s undergraduate and graduate enrollment is 8,047 this fall, down from 8,279 students in fall 2013.

MU and the other universities in the State System are encountering a more competitive climate in higher education.

The number of PASSHE students has dropped four consecutive years, after peaking at almost 119,500 in 2010. In 2013, Millersville ranked sixth in enrollment, behind West Chester, Indiana, Bloomsburg, Kutztown and Slippery Rock universities.

As PASSHE Chancellor Frank Brogan told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “The state is producing fewer high school graduates. What we do as a result of that is in our control.”

Millersville’s undergraduates decreased from 7,388 in 2013 to 7,171 in 2014 and its graduate student enrollment dropped from 891 to 876.

Brian Hazlett, MU’s vice president for enrollment management, explained in an email:

“Faced with the realities of shifting demographics, increasing competition, changing technology and financial challenges, Millersville University developed a new strategic plan called our Bold Path. That plan lists a variety of focused goals including increasing enrollment to 10,000 by 2020.

“We will accomplish that by enhancing enrollments in current markets, establishing new markets and improving student retention.”

Details of the enrollment initiative were revealed by MU president John Anderson at his convocation address in September.

They include creating an online college (currently in the planning stages) with 1,200 students; increasing the out-of-state student population by 400; expanding international enrollment by 200; and offering doctoral programs for the first time.

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Paula Wolf is a Lancaster Newspapers staff writer who covers real estate and local colleges and writes a weekly sports column, Wheelchair Quarterback. She can be reached at or (717) 291-8692. You can also follow @pywolf on Twitter.