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Published: 9/7/2011

UT, BGSU report slight declines in enrollment

School officials cite costs, poor economy

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Bowling Green State University was hoping to enroll the most freshmen in its history this fall but settled for its third-largest freshman class.

Likewise, the number of freshmen who returned as sophomores this fall continued to disappoint both BGSU and the University of Toledo. Officials at both schools say the reasons are financial, plain and simple.

"With the cost of education increasing … with the economy continuing to suffer, with everything from home mortgages and other elements of a family's budget continuing to deteriorate, more and more of our students don't come back for financial reasons," said Larry Burns, a UT vice president who oversees enrollment.

UT reported a 65.2 percent return rate for last year's freshmen, and BGSU said just under 72 percent of its freshmen returned as sophomores this fall. The numbers were part of the fall enrollment figures area colleges and universities reported Tuesday.

Overall, BGSU reported a 1.1 percent decrease in undergraduate and graduate students at the main and Firelands campuses -- to 19,994 this fall from 20,222 last fall. UT experienced a 2.06 percent decline -- to 22,610 from 23,085.

Gary Swegan, director of admissions at BGSU, said the 3,864 freshmen enrolled this fall include 843 students of color, 600 students from out of state, and the "highest quality students in over a decade." Incoming freshmen had an average high school grade point average of 3.25 percent and an average ACT score of 22.

"We increased quality. We increased diversity and out of states -- very good metrics," said Albert Colom, vice president for enrollment management at BGSU. "In any given year to do any of those individually would be good, but to do those in one I think was a great way to show that BGSU is a very strong forerunner academically in terms of preparing students."

UT enrolled just 70 fewer freshmen than last year -- 3,624, from 3,694 last fall.

Mr. Burns said that is on track with UT's projections since it raised academic requirements for incoming students in nursing, business, and some other degree programs.

"This is where we thought we would be in year two in our program where we've increased academic requirements in many of our programs," he said. "We very much hope to see us getting back into the growth phase where we have more prepared students."

The average GPA for incoming freshmen at UT was 3.2 percent, and the average ACT score was 21.7, he said.

For the second year, Owens Community College reported a significant drop in enrollment -- to 17,173 from 19,980 last fall. Owens enrollment was at a high of 23,606 in 2009.

Renay Scott, executive vice president and provost at Owens, said the 14 percent enrollment decline reflects the continuing drop in demand for for-credit training taken by those in the work force.

Owens is offering more noncredit training for those in business and industry, she said, and those students are not included in the enrollment count used by the state to determine a college or university's funding.

"Last year, we trained a little over 5,600 employees for over 100 local businesses. That was grant-funded training -- short-term, noncredit training," she said, adding that Owens has not laid off any employees because of the enrollment changes.

"We're serving the same amount of students," Ms. Scott said. "We just have to serve our region in a different way now while we wait for the economy to come back."

Lourdes University in Sylvania reported its eighth consecutive year of growth. It had 2,655 students this fall, compared with 2,616 last year -- a 1.5 percent increase.

"Over the past several years, we've introduced residential housing and intercollegiate athletics, while also growing our graduate school, undergraduate offerings, and international opportunities," said Robert Helmer, president of Lourdes.

Unlike BGSU and UT, which both experienced declines in graduate students, Lourdes had a 16 percent increase in graduate students.

The number of undergraduates at BGSU was up slightly at the main campus, but the number of graduate students dropped 13.1 percent, or 380.

Michael Ogawa, interim dean of BGSU's graduate college, attributed the decline to the reduction in assistantships awarded this year as well as to the impending elimination of several graduate programs at BGSU.

Mr. Burns said that in recent years UT also has reduced the number of stipends available to graduate students, and that is reflected in a 3.81 percent decline in the number of students in its graduate, law, and medical schools this fall.

Also Tuesday, Mercy College of Ohio reported a slight increase from last year. with 1,103 students at its Toledo campus and 108 at its Youngstown campus.

Mercy, which had 1,100 students at the Toledo campus last fall, offers bachelor's degree programs in health care administration and nursing and associate's degrees in general studies, health information technology, nursing, and radiologic technology.

After four consecutive years of enrollment increases, Terra State Community College in Fremont reported a 0.9 percent drop in students -- to 3,485 this fall from 3,516 last year.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-724-6129.



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