Enrollment at area colleges and universities declined minimally for this year's fall semester except for the University of Toledo, which incurred the largest drop of the group, fall-semester figures released Tuesday show.
Across all campuses, UT enrolled 21,500 undergraduate and graduate students this semester, a 5 percent drop from the 22,624 in fall 2011. Its enrollment had been down 2.1 percent in the spring, while its fall 2011 number was 2.06 percent below the previous fall's.
A new strategic initiative aimed at ensuring students are academically prepared to enroll combined with one of the longest, deepest economic slowdowns in American history has led to a smaller, but academically stronger student population, according to University of Toledo officials.
"While this year's class is a bit smaller, it is also better prepared for the rigors of a college education," Dr. Lloyd Jacobs, UT president, said in a statement. "Traditionally, students who apply for admission late in the summer are among the least likely to return the following year, let alone earn a degree. This year we stopped enrolling students July 31."
For the past four years, UT has tightened admissions while maintaining its status as an open-enrollment school.
A decline in enrollment also could be a sign of a strengthening economy, he said.
BY THE NUMBERS
Combined undergraduate and graduate enrollment at area colleges and universities this semester compared with last fall:
School 2012 2011
UT 21,500 22,624
BGSU* 19,697 19,994
Owens 16,996 17,173
Lourdes 2,621 2,655
Mercy 1,101 1,103
* Main and Firelands campuses
"Many of the students who wanted to return to college and retool following the recession have now done that and returned to the marketplace," Dr. Jacobs said.
An administrator at Owens Community College noted a similar trend.
Renay Scott, executive vice president and provost at Owens, said she attributes the school's nearly even enrollment numbers with a stabilizing economy.
Enrollment at Owens Community College dropped 1 percent to 16,996 from 17,173 in fall 2011.
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. But it indicates that businesses are feeling better about the economy and investing in their work forces.
"Enrollment is very stable, a 1 percent change is minimal," Ms. Scott said. "More businesses are asking for non-credit training. It's a positive."
Enrollment at Bowling Green State University dropped 1.5 percent, to 19,697, from 19,994 in fall 2011.
However, the students that are enrolled are taking more credit hours in order to complete their degrees on time, said Albert Colom, BGSU's vice president for enrollment management.
"I'm pleased with the students we are getting," Mr. Colom said. "They are very committed, very engaged."
After eight consecutive years of growth, enrollment at Lourdes University dipped 1.3 percent to 2,621 compared to 2,655 in fall 2011.
The school experienced an increase in enrollment this fall for some of its programs. New, full-time, traditional-age student enrollment increased 32 percent, compared to the fall of 2011.
Mercy College of Ohio reported that the college's fall enrollment at the Toledo Campus is 1,101 students, down only two students from 1,103 last year or 0.2 percent. While the number of students has remained virtually the same, the number of classes the students are taking has increased 2 percent over last year.
Chief Admissions Officer Shelly McCoy Grissom said students want to get to work as soon as possible.
"Because we provide students options of certificate, associate and bachelor's degree programs, we are able to make that happen for them," Ms. McCoy Grissom said in a statement. "Students are pursuing health care careers because of anticipated substantial job growth."
Contact Tanya Irwin at: email@example.com or 419-724-6066.