COLUMBUS - More students are attending Ohio colleges, but that is not entirely good news to the chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents.
The board yesterday released preliminary statewide enrollment data for public colleges and universities during its meeting here, revealing that student population is up 3.7 percent overall.
The University of Toledo is up 2.8 percent, with 20,889 students, and Bowling Green State University is up 1 percent, to 20,480 students. Owens Community College saw enrollment rise 7.1 percent to 18,467 students.
The challenge remains, though, of paying for the enrollment increases in the face of declining state support, Chancellor Rod Chu said.
Mr. Chu attributed the spike, in part, to the state's sluggish economy. Historically, more people go back to school during an economic downturn to upgrade their skills, he said.
“This dramatic increase demonstrates once again that Ohioans who face hard times turn to higher education to better their lives,” he said. “But, we also must remember that these increases are not funded - higher education's budget has been cut, not increased, and these enrollments put an added strain on the already scarce resources of our campuses.”
The regents have proposed increasing state funding to higher education by $250 million each of the next two years.
This year was the fifth in a row that Ohio's public colleges and universities showed growth. Before 1998, enrollment had not risen since 1991.
The preliminary student enrollment statewide this year is 449,113, compared to 433,241 last year. Community colleges saw the biggest increases - 131,381 students, up 7.5 percent - followed by technical colleges with 25,629, up 5.6 percent. Universities and their branch campuses accounted for the rest with 292,103, an increase of 1.8 percent
Private colleges and universities in Ohio also reported gains - for the 17th consecutive year.
The Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Ohio reported 125,086 students attending private institutions - an increase of 2,220, or 1.8 percent, over last year.
“Many institutions have focused their recruitment efforts on increasing the size of the freshman class, and strong campus programs have resulted in high retention among returning students,” Larry H. Christman, the president of the association, said.
In other business yesterday, the regents approved a master's degree program in criminal justice at the University of Toledo. The program would expand upon a bachelor's degree program in the College of Health and Human Services. The first students are expected to enter the program in January, UT officials said.
The regents approved the program for two years. After that period, the board will examine how well the program is working and decide whether it should continue.