Monday, Jun 26, 2017
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Education

Local college enrollment declines

UT’s fall numbers down less than 1%; BGSU drops 2.8%

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Enrollment at most local higher-education institutions continued its downward trend this year, with some of the biggest declines at the smaller institutions.

The University of Toledo, however, saw enrollment stay essentially flat, with a less than 1 percent decline in total students, from 20,782 last year to 20,625 this fall. Since 2010, enrollment at UT has dropped from 23,085, a nearly 10 percent decline from 2010 to 2013, so this year’s results may be seen as an improvement for the university.

UT’s enrollment fortunes were helped by a concerted effort to pull in students from outside Toledo, particularly those with high grade-point averages and ACT scores, said Cam Cruickshank, vice president for enrollment management. That’s included increases in international students, freshman from Michigan, and Honors Award recipients.

Final academic numbers for the freshman class were not complete, Mr. Cruickshank said, but he expected them to improve from last year’s average of a 3.23 GPA and 22.2 ACT.

“We are attracting high-ability students outside of northwest Ohio, and increasing the number of them coming to Toledo,” he said. “But the students we are serving in the local area continue to be consistent with our mission.”

Fall enrollment at Owens was 12,577, down from 14,674 last year, a 14 percent decline.

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That drop was unfortunate, but not surprising, said Owens’ Betsy Johnson, vice president of enrollment management and student services. High school populations in the region have contracted, reducing the pool for all higher education institutions.

Meanwhile, Owens’ student ranks swelled during the recession with nontraditional students. These are older adults looking for a new career or students looking for professional accreditation instead of a degree. An improving economy means fewer nontraditional students.

“That was a really, really rough time in northwest Ohio,” Ms. Johnson said. “Community colleges tend to do really, really well when the economy tanks.”

Owens will likely see additional enrollment declines over the next few years before the trend reverses, she said.

The precipitous decline, along with less state funding, has prompted Owens leaders to explore a potential levy. The college formed a committee earlier this year to explore ways to raise new revenue, and has hired a consulting firm to help it build a case for amending its charter, a necessary step for Owens to place a levy on the ballot.

Bowling Green State University’s enrollment was also hurt by trends affecting community colleges. Total enrollment at BGSU dropped 2.8 percent from last year, from 19,408 to 18,856. The decline at the university’s Firelands campus, however, was steeper, decreasing by 6.3 percent, from 2,443 to 2,290.

Like Owens, BGSU officials said the improving economy has created a drag on Firelands.

“It is a concern,” said Joseph Frizado, vice provost for academic operations.

The freshman class was once again BGSU’s most academically prepared, though gains in that area were smaller this year than the last. Freshman average high school GPA was 3.32, and average ACT scores were 22.7, up from 3.31 and 22.6, respectively. In 2013, ACT scores had increased from 22 to 22.6.

Another big jump in academic preparedness would have been difficult, BGSU officials said. Instead, the university is hoping for incremental growth in coming years.

Better prepared students are less likely to drop out, and BGSU said their retention of first-year students improved from about 70 percent to 75.8 percent.

“We did a good job with last year's class, and then we held on to them,” Mr. Frizado said.

Lourdes University saw a steep decline, with 1,835 students compared with 2,343 last year, a nearly 22 percent drop. A university spokesman attributed some of the loss to a change in the way Lourdes calculates enrollment, as it no longer counts high school students taking college courses.

Enrollment at Mercy College of Ohio remained essentially flat, with a total enrollment of 1,193 at its Toledo and Youngstown campuses, down 0.2 percent from last fall’s enrollment of 1,195. The Toledo campus, which is on the border of the UpTown and Old West End neighborhoods, saw a 1.1 percent enrollment drop, while the Youngstown campus actually grew by 8.2 percent, though it’s a small campus with only 132 students.

Mercy College President Susan Wajert said in a statement that the school had a record number of new nursing students this year.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com or 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.

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