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Published: Friday, 1/23/2004

Ohio college enrollment on the rise

BY RYAN E. SMITH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Ohio is making headway on increasing participation in higher education, which ought to be one of its top educational priorities, a report released yesterday by Ohio Board of Regents says.

While the state has lagged behind the nation in terms of adults having bachelor's degrees, enrollment in colleges and universities surged 8.3 percent between 1998 and 2002.

The data was part of the fourth annual performance report on Ohio higher education, a mammoth compilation of charts and statistics. It was unveiled at a meeting of the board of regents in Rio Grande, Ohio.

The performance report was established at the request of Gov. Bob Taft to help people make decisions about higher education in Ohio.

Among its other findings:

• Average in-state undergraduate tuition for public four-year universities was $6,822 this academic year, 67 percent higher than the national level of $4,081.

• A student who receives an associate degree can expect to make $32,581 in his or her first year out of college, about $1,000 less than someone with a bachelor's degree. The difference grows to more than $5,400 a year, however, by the fourth year out of college.

• Ohio students who attend college in Ohio tend to stay in the state, at least in the first six months after graduation. Of the Spring, 2001, graduates, 79 percent were still in school or working in the state half a year later.

The report shows Ohio higher education institutions enrolled 589,138 students in the fall of 2002. The greatest growth was in public community and technical colleges, where enrollment rose 18.2 percent from 137,160 to 162,176 students.

Terry Thomas, executive director of the Ohio Association of Community Colleges, said some of that has to do with the tendency for people to go to school for more training during rough economic times. Lower tuition helps too, he said.

Owens Community College has had more than 25 consecutive semesters of growth, expanding no matter what kind of economy.

Bill Ivoska, Owens vice president of student services, believes that is because the college has found a niche.

“I think northwest Ohio was an underserved population as far as higher education is concerned because the cost of the universities was generally high for people,” he said.

Enrollment at main campuses of four-year universities increased, but at the slower rate of 3.2 percent.

Gary Swegan, director of admissions at Bowling Green State University, said a higher percentage of Ohioans appear to be heading to college and that universities in recent years have sought them out in order to bring in more student fees and state subsidies.

The University of Toledo has tried in recent years to increase its students who come directly from high school. It has built more student housing and directed scholarships toward such students to become more attractive to that group, while continuing to serve nontraditional students, said Rob Sheehan, senior vice provost for academic affairs.



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