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Published: Wednesday, 10/19/2005

UT trustees probe cause of drop in enrollment

BY KIM BATES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

This semester, University of Toledo leaders formed an enrollment task force, met with consultants, and are in the middle of a tuition study to determine what the market will bear - all aimed at trying to stem declining enrollment.

Some of the efforts as well as the issue of enrollment in general were the focus yesterday of a sometimes heated meeting of the board of trustees academic affairs committee, during which several trustees grilled administrators on why UT's head-count has dropped again - and what they're going to do about it.

"We need to understand that this administration understands why we're seeing enrollment slipping," trustee Rick Stansley said.

Administrators said one reason they couldn't attract more students to campus this year was because additional recruiters who were put in place after last fall's shortfall weren't on the road until December - long after many high school students had decided on which schools they'd attend.

Provost Alan Goodridge also told the trustees that the largest decrease in enrollment on campus this semester, which occurred in the college of education, could be blamed, in part, on the fact that early childhood education jobs have dried up.

Fall enrollment is 19,201, a 1.5 percent drop from last year. The figure also fell significantly short of fall, 2003, enrollment of 20,594, which leaders had set as a necessary financial goal when producing a budget that was approved in July.

The latest decrease occurred despite large-scale efforts over the last year to attract more students through recruiting measures and additional aid packages.

Trustees asked administrators for regular, specific reports on the matter.

One of the reports includes results of an ongoing price elasticity study, which is expected to be presented to trustees in December. The work by the Arts & Science Group LLC will include recommended tuition price and cost of attendance for the next three to five years.

It's also expected to note scholarship and financial aid initiatives that would be aimed at making the university more competitive and offset price increases.

After the meeting, Rob Sheehan, UT's senior vice provost for academic affairs, said a new enrollment task force has been probing the issue as well and intends to present recommendations to President Dan Johnson.

One is expected to be a goal of restoring enrollment by a smaller annual number - about 200 students.

Mr. Sheehan said consultants who were on campus earlier this month told leaders that their push to restore enrollment to 2003 levels this year was too ambitious. The consultants also recommended the university seek more out-of-state students from certain areas.

In other matters yesterday, trustees:

●Reviewed results of a 2005 audit by Ernst & Young of university financial statements. It suggested that the university enact a policy governing frequent flyer miles for employees and update its information technology plan, among other recommendations.

●Heard from Mr. Johnson about his discussions with Lloyd Jacobs, president of the Medical University of Ohio, to explore the possibility of forming and sharing a governmental relations office. Such a relationship would be unusual among higher education institutions in Ohio, the president said.

Contact Kim Bates at:

kimbates@theblade.com

or 419-724-6074.



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