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Thursday, July 10, 2014
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Published: Thursday, 1/24/2013

Area college enrollment losses mild, expected; University of Toledo suffers biggest drop

BY NOLAN ROSENKRANS
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Fewer students enrolled at area colleges and universities this spring compared to last year, an expected result after enrollment declines in the fall.

Student losses were across the board, though generally mild. Enrollment did decline steeply at the University of Toledo, where 19,795 enrolled this spring, compared to 20,631 last year, a 4 percent reduction. Though steep, it’s actually a slightly better result than the fall semester, when UT enrollment dropped by about 5 percent from 2011 to 2012.

An initiative to entice transfer students appeared to fail. The university offered free on-campus housing for any full-time student who transferred in the spring 2013 semester. Scott Scarborough, UT’s provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, said only eight students took the offer. Mr. Scarborough said longer-term plans, such as pushing more full-time faculty into undergraduate classrooms, will have stronger effects on enrollment.

“We are hanging more of our hopes on our long-term plans in terms of enrollment,” he said.

The spring enrollment declines were expected, Mr. Scarborough said, and did not significantly worsen or mitigate a projected budget deficit in fiscal year 2014 of more than $30 million.

Bowling Green State University’s enrollment for undergraduate and graduate programs at both its campuses dropped by about a percent, from 18,526 last spring to 18,331. The university’s enrollment had also declined last spring, though undergraduate enrollment had risen in 2012, with those gains only washed out by a steep drop in graduate enrollment.

Albert Colom, BGSU’s vice president for enrollment management, said the slight decline was expected, and noted the university did a better job this academic year retaining freshmen between the fall and spring semesters. “Nothing here is a surprise,” he said.

The university recently announced the reduction of 100 full-time jobs, though BGSU officials said the slight decrease in spring enrollment is not impacting those job losses. Instead, the larger long-term enrollment trends are more to blame. The university hopes to enroll 3,600 freshmen in the fall, and would need significantly more to boost enrollment to sufficient levels.

That’s not likely, so instead, BGSU is focused on improving the academic quality of freshmen classes, since better-prepared students are generally retained at better rates.

“It’s not so much about size now,” Mr. Colom said. “It’s about that quality of the student body.”

Enrollment at Owens Community College dropped by 145 to 16,596 this spring.

Though the school had fewer students than a year ago, the decline was significantly lower than last spring, when enrollment dropped from 18,965 in 2011 to 16,741.

Owens enrollment peaked at 23,606 in the fall of 2009, when many were out of work and looking to community colleges for possible new career paths. That rapid student influx quickly turned to steep declines. Renay Scott, Owens vice president and provost, expected enrollment to be more stable in coming years, with lower birthrates and regional population declines causing enrollment to continue to decrease, but only marginally.

“We project enrollment in two to four years to be pretty stable ... based on regional demographics,” she said.

Lourdes University lost students at the fastest clip in the area, with a more than 5 percent decline overall, from 2,409 students last year to 2,276 this spring. University officials said full-time undergraduate enrollment and enrollment in graduate programs increased.

Mercy College of Ohio’s Madison Avenue campus continued to lose students, with 994 students enrolled this spring semester compared to 1,018 last year and 1,047 in 2011. Mercy College officials said despite the enrollment decrease, students are taking 2.6 percent more classes than last year.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com or 419-724-6086.



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