Applicant surge might not result in higher enrollment

Low-end estimates for the upcoming academic year indicate that enrollment might remain flat, even though Ohio University has received a record number of applications this year.

OU officials estimate that freshman enrollment will be about 3,882 for Fall 2012, one student short of this year’s freshman enrollment.

“Those are conservative estimates,” said Craig Cornell, vice provost for enrollment management. “We would never want to build our budget on what we hope the enrollment will be.”

The university’s freshman enrollment goal remains at 4,025 for next year.

“With the application numbers we have, I think we have a great shot at that,” he said.

OU has received 17,165 applications so far this year, compared to 12,931 at this point last year and 13,271 overall last year. Cornell attributed the jump in numbers to OU’s increased marketing efforts.

OU has reached to new markets and ramped up efforts aimed at out-of-state students this year, Cornell said. The university has increased mailings to students both in- and out-of-state and sent representatives to more high schools and college fairs.

Out-of-state student applications jumped by 2,200 this year, and in-state student applications increased by 2,034, Cornell said.

The budget for commercial and radio advertising stayed relatively the same this year, he said, but spending on direct-mail marketing slightly increased.

OU officials also had to consider the switch to semesters when constructing the overall enrollment projection. Some students might choose to graduate early so they do not have to stay for the transition, and others might view the switch as an incentive to graduate on time instead of staying for an extra semester, said John Day, associate provost for academic budget and planning.

“We don’t know yet whether our semester conversion could increase our graduation rate in the spring,” Day said. “We might see a small decline in (overall) enrollment next year.”

By late spring, OU officials will have a better idea of whether the graduation rate will go up.

“We don’t want to count on growth and have … other factors change because of the change to semesters,” said Chad Mitchell, interim budget director for OU.

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