Small Private Colleges in Missouri Matter

Small private colleges in Missouri have played a significant role in the state’s education system for many years.  These institutions have provided students with a unique learning experience often not found at larger universities.   Through the years, schools have adjusted to overcome challenges and the next few years will be no different.

Not only do they play an integral role in educating Missouri’s young people who become our future leaders and employees, making a difference in their communities, they employee 10,000+ individuals who make an impact. They educate nearly 70,000 students every year. The economic stability factor private colleges in Missouri provide is in the billions annually. 

One of the biggest challenges facing small private colleges is declining enrollment.  The decline in enrollment can be attributed to several factors, including changes in demographics, increased competition, and rising costs.  We are seeing some of this in Missouri, but we are also seeing upticks in enrollment as institutions add programs, stretch their recruitment strategies, reach new markets and enhance the overall student experience.  Small colleges can adapt and adjust easier than larger institutions.  William Woods University, for example, announced big plans to add men’s football and women’s flag football to its varsity sports schedule.

Another challenge facing all colleges is the perceived value of a college education.  In 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, full-time workers ages 22 to 27 who held a bachelor’s degree earn 73% more than a full-time worker of the same age with a high school diploma and no degree.They reported this gap has widened over time.  A college education is not just about academics.  Students at small independent colleges learn power skills such as leadership, communication, and decision-making, that are valuable skills employers are seeking.

Small schools can more easily adapt programs to individualize a student’s education.  They are well-positioned to provide this type of education as they often have smaller class sizes and more personalized attention from faculty.  They also have a powerful resource in their alumnae base who provide incredible services as well as financial support, internship opportunities, community service programs, research projects, and networking opportunities to name just a few. 

By partnering with the communities, small colleges share valuable resources and are responsive to working to meet the needs of their communities.  This is seen in sponsorship opportunities, workforce development initiatives, continuing education opportunities, and other services that benefit the community.

Missouri small, private colleges and universities have strong leaders in place to address the needs of today’s students.  The importance of small colleges in Missouri will only grow in importance in the next few years as they face challenges and opportunities through collaboration, partnership and a growth mindset.  To continue to thrive, these institutions will focus on recruitment and retaining students, adapting their programs and curricula to meet changing needs, and they will leverage their size and flexibility to be great community partners.  Small private colleges in Missouri will continue to provide students with a unique and valuable education for many years to come.