MOORHEAD — Enrollment at Concordia College and Minnesota State Community and Technical College (M State) will drop this year, though that has been expected in light of challenges brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, leaders said.

Concordia reported a fall enrollment of 1,855, down about 3% from last year.

“We were anticipating there would be challenges in enrollment this year,” Concordia Dean and Provost Susan Larson said.

M State said it estimated its enrollment would drop about 6% this year. Last year, it had 1,806 students, putting this fall’s estimate around 1,700 students. The school plans to release the final numbers this week.

The two schools attributed the drop this year to the pandemic, which limited campus visits. Like other schools in the area, the schools had to switch to a hybrid version of online and in-person learning.

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“Virtual visits are a substitute but don’t have the same feel as being on a campus,” M State President Carrie Brimhall said, adding some programs have caps on how many students they can accept due to safety requirements.

The two smaller schools in Moorhead followed a downward trend seen by other universities in the Fargo-Moorhead area. Minnesota State University Moorhead is slated to fall 9% this year, while North Dakota State University could drop 3.5%.

All schools have seen a drop in enrollment over the past several years. Concordia has implemented several strategies to fight that downward trend, including cutting tuition by 35%, offering more graduate programs and making it easier for transfer students to come to the school, Larson said.

Larson said she hopes those programs can help stabilize or even spark growth as early as next year.