Enrollment growth brings greater diversity

The past seven years have shown ups and downs for Ohio University campus’ enrollment data, but this fall OU is setting the bar statewide.

New enrollment data revealed that OU has not only set seven-year highs in several categories but also had the most overall growth of any public university in Ohio this year.

The 15-day headcount enrollment at OU, or the number of students on campus after the 15th day of classes, had a 5.69 percent increase in students across all campuses, according to data from the Ohio Board of Regents.

Although the numbers are not yet final, OU and the Board of Regents view them as the official measure of university enrollment, said Craig Cornell, OU’s vice provost for enrollment management.

“We are really pleased with these numbers,” Cornell said.

OU’s Athens campus’ freshman enrollment was 3,888 — less than 10 students more than the university’s target for the year, said Ann Fidler, chief of staff for the provost and chief financial officer.

Kent State University had the second-highest overall enrollment growth for public universities in Ohio, at 2.85 percent, while all other Ohio schools experienced a drop or a small growth.

The majority of OU’s growth came from its regional campuses, with all but Zanesville’s campus experiencing growth, according to Board data.

Despite an overall drop in freshman enrollment during the past seven years, it is not the goal of the university to increase the size of the freshman class, but to grow certain populations within it, Cornell said, including out-of-state, international and multicultural students.

“We have been working diligently for the past three to four years on building those markets,” Cornell said. “OU in the past didn’t do a significant amount of recruiting internationally or out of state.”

OU’s out-of-state population had a 21.8 percent increase, 15.3 percent of the freshman class, while the international population grew by 69.3 percent, according to the freshman profile.

“We don’t live in a very diverse region, so if you just drew from your region, we would be very non-diverse,” Cornell said. “So the goal has always been to build our multicultural and diversity efforts.”

The number of in-state students enrolled at OU has dropped 7 percent since 2006, while non-Caucasian and international students increased 47.5 percent since then, according to the profile.

“What better place to get (a diverse background) than in a university setting?” said Winsome Chunnu-Brayda, associate director of the Multicultural Center, adding that a university campus offers a more comfortable approach to diverse backgrounds.

Campus administrators are also happy with the increase in quality of the freshman class.

“We were very pleased with the type of students we were able to recruit,” Fidler said.

Almost 60 percent of freshmen were in the top 25 percent of their high-school classes, and the average ACT score of 24 ties the seven-year high, according to the freshman profile.

Overall enrollment on the Athens campus is down this fall as the switch from quarters to semesters saw a 17 percent increase in bachelor’s degree conferrals last spring, leaving the Athens campus with 180 fewer students than last fall, Cornell said.

Kim Norris, director of communications for the Board of Regents, said the switch to semesters caused many students to complete their degrees early, bringing back fewer students in the fall to schools that had formerly been on the quarters system.

This drop in enrollment is not a concern for the state, Norris said, as the board is more focused on ensuring students who enroll finish their degrees than increasing the number of enrolled students.

“The fact (that) we’re not able to draw from a city population, the fact we have to recruit students from all over the state of Ohio, the fact that we’ve had record enrollments — I think says a lot about the strong academic programs we have,” Cornell said.


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