Vindicator Logo

Will economy boost YSU enrollment?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

YSU said it’s too early to judge the impact, but applications are up.


COLUMBUS — Many Ohio colleges have received more freshman applications for admission than a year ago but still wonder if the sluggish economy will force some students to change their plans.

“A lot of our families operate pretty close to the edge and make huge sacrifices to send their children to Ohio Dominican,” said David Archibald, vice president for enrollment management at the Columbus college. “Any bump — foreclosure, a major medical expense, fewer hours, lower pay or the loss of a job — can cause a major ripple in their lives.”

Officials worry that some students who have been accepted will pull out at the last minute because they can’t come up with enough tuition money.

Youngstown State University applications for fall admission are running “a couple hundred ahead” of this time last year, said Ron Cole, manager of news and information services.

The university is still hoping to reach its enrollment goal of 14,000 this fall. Enrollment reached 13,497 last fall, the highest in 13 years.

It’s too early to tell how the economy will impact those numbers, but, traditionally, when the local economy goes down, enrollment at YSU rises, Cole said. People decide to go back to school to pursue additional education and/or new careers, he explained.

He pointed out that YSU will be in the second year of a tuition freeze this fall, and the university’s tuition, at $6,721 a year, is still the lowest among all of Ohio’s comprehensive universities, making YSU an attractive educational choice.

The university offers a wide variety of financial aid packages, and the average student pays less than half the tuition “sticker price” at YSU, Cole said.

The Ohio State University received 385 fewer applications than last year’s record 22,172.

But the school still expects 6,050 freshmen at its main campus in September.

“They’re not the largest class, but they appear to be the strongest,” said Mabel Freeman, assistant vice president for undergraduate admissions and first-year experience.

Of the admitted students, 92 percent were in the top quarter of their high school class, and their average composite score on the ACT was 27.3 of a possible 36, Freeman said.

Freshman commitments at Ohio University in Athens are down by 128 students from this time last year. The university accepted 10,762 students, hoping that 4,050 will attend in the fall.

So far, 3,747 have signed a housing contract, which is how the school tracks who it thinks will show up.

About 40 other students who will live at home with their parents also have committed.

“The good news is that the number of housing contracts has ever so slightly gone up the past few weeks. We really hope to catch up,” said Michael Williford, associate provost for institutional research.

What’s known as “summer melt” happens when committed students decide not to go to the school after all. Some receive late offers from their top-choice college and go there instead. Others put school off for a year or decide not to go at all because of family emergencies, financial concerns or other reasons.

“Who knows what will happen once the bill arrives at their homes in July and they have to decide how they will finance it,” said Margaret Drugovich, vice president for university enrollment at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware.

Ohio State announced a program Tuesday aimed at getting low-income families to start thinking about college at an early age, when children are in fourth and fifth grade, to help improve academic preparedness.

At workshops, parents learn about the benefits and requirements of going to college, create a college-track academic plan, fill out sample college and financial aid applications, and learn to use college scholarship resources.

While parents participate in the workshops, children attend “College Camp,” led by Ohio State undergraduate students, and take part in age-appropriate activities such as learning about careers.