Associated Press

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) – The University of Missouri System president is laying out plans to improve the Columbia campus’ enrollment and public image.

President Mun Choi spoke to the Regional Economic Development Board of Directors on Wednesday, the Columbia Daily Tribune reported.

“During the past two years, I don’t think the university has been very proactive in helping to shape the message,” Choi said.

Board member Fred Parry said the university’s enrollment decline and public image problems can be traced back to the November 2015 protests involving the university’s students, faculty and football team.

“Those are the things that seem to have really made the University of Missouri not seem like a viable option for a lot of incoming freshmen,” Parry said.

Enrollment was at a record 35,448 students in fall 2015. The campus had 6,419 first-time freshmen. This fall, the university anticipates about 4,000 first-time freshmen and a total enrollment of about 30,800.

Choi said the university should target high achievers to increase graduation rates and raise its profile as a top university.

He also said the university’s goal for enrollment should be about 5,000 new freshmen and about 1,000 community college transfers per year on the Columbia campus.

“We have not really focused on strategic enrollment,” Choi said. “I think the mindset had been, let’s get to this target number of students, and as long as the applications were coming in, things were fine.”

To attract higher-achieving students, Choi said the school will start offering a scholarship to students ranked as National Merit finalists or semifinalists.

Board Chairman Jeff Echelmeier said he likes Choi’s plan.

“I am excited about his attitude of investment,” he said. “I think that is the way the university is going to recover, is to invest the smart resources that will help us grow our way out of it.”

(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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