Local college enrollment down

UT, BGSU, or Owens, reasons for drop differ; student loss same


  • Fewer students are enrolled at area colleges and universities, a slip continued from last year, according to fall-semester numbers released Tuesday.

    The University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University saw enrollment drop, but officials at both universities touted a push to enroll students who perform better academically.

    UT enrollment dipped about 3.3 percent from fall, 2012, semester to fall semester 2013. The university counted 20,782 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled this semester, based on numbers provided 15 days after classes started. UT enrollment fell 5 percent from fall, 2011, to fall, 2012.

    A factor in the decline is the smaller size of several consecutive freshman classes, meaning the pool of continuing undergraduate students is shrinking, said Cam Cruickshank, UT vice president for enrollment management and online education. He also pointed to birth trends across the Midwest resulting in fewer high school grads.

    UT continued its effort to recruit stronger students, increasing the average grade-point average for those freshmen attending directly from high school to 3.22 on a 4.0 scale, according to preliminary semester numbers. First-year students posted a 22.16 average ACT score, up 0.38 from the previous year, Mr. Cruickshank said.

    “Overall, we’re pretty pleased with how things have turned out. We made budget, we’ve anticipated this,” he said. “We’ve increased [the] quality of our freshman class … bringing in more international students, more from out of state.”

    BGSU enrollment declined 1.5 percent from last fall to 19,407 graduate and undergraduate students this year at its main campus and the Firelands campus near Huron.

    Undergraduate enrollment took the hardest hit, while graduate enrollment held steady, according to the numbers provided by the university eight days after classes started.

    BGSU officials said the numbers reflect a strategic change to focus on admitting academically well-prepared students. The shift corresponds with a change in the state’s funding formula to reward universities for students who complete degrees.

    “We felt that bringing in more qualified freshmen would lead ultimately to better retention and better graduation rates,” said Albert Colom, vice president for enrollment management.

    The BGSU freshman class has an average high school GPA of 3.31, a university record. The average ACT score was 22.6, up from 22 last year.

    Owens Community College saw the most drastic decline among five area institutions. Enrollment dipped about 13.7 percent from fall, 2012; currently 14,674 students are enrolled.

    Betsy Johnson, vice president of enrollment management and student services, attributed Owens’ decline to an improving economy that has resulted in fewer students seeking training and education because they have jobs. The college saw growth in some academic programs such as registered nursing, in which completing the degree is a requirement for a career. The enrollment numbers don’t include students who receive noncredit work-force training through Owens, a number that is increasing.

    She does not expect Owens to make budget cuts because of the enrollment decline “at this point in time.”

    Lourdes University’s enrollment slid 10.6 percent from last fall. University spokesman Heather Hoffman said it expected a decline, planned for budget cuts, and increased the number of students living in college residences. She blamed the drop on fewer high school students graduating and a decrease in transfer-student enrollment, as well as less financial aid to offer.

    Enrollment at the Toledo campus of Mercy College of Ohio fell by 2.5 percent. Total enrollment dropped by 1.2 percent when including students at a Youngstown campus.

    Contact Vanessa McCray at: vmccray@theblade.com or 419-724-6056, or on Twitter @vanmccray.