Ohio colleges expect drop in enrollment
Universities in Ohio are changing how they recruit students and rethinking their approaches amid predictions that the number of public high-school graduates in the state will continue to drop over the next decade.
Ohio’s public colleges and universities posted an enrollment drop of 6 percent last fall, and numbers at independent, nonprofit colleges were down for the first time in 25 years.
The biggest concern is over population shifts that will leave Ohio with fewer high-school graduates.
The U.S. Department of Education estimates that the number of public high-school graduates in Ohio will drop by about 18 percent between 2008 and 2021. The Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education predicts the drop will be 9 percent.
“The decline is clearly going to have an impact,” said C. Todd Jones, president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Ohio, which promotes private institutions. “The question is, ‘How severe will that decline be?’”
Colleges and universities will be forced to recruit students with more targeted messages, The Akron Beacon Journal reported.
The University of Akron is working with Northeast Ohio high schools to improve the number of college-ready students. The school also is planning a new internship program beginning this spring for 250 undergraduates.
One goal is to find jobs for 80 percent of graduates within six months of graduation, said Provost Mike Sherman.
“We’re going to have to be competitive and do some things differently,” he said. “We’re going to be part of the solution to offset the population trend.”
The College of Wooster, a private school in Northeast Ohio, has increased its outreach to high-school counselors in Ohio and in southwestern states such as Arizona, which has helped it reach its enrollment goals, said Jennifer Winge, dean of students.
Kent State University wants to bring in better students who will stay all four years instead of marginal students who drop out and have to be replaced. It also is looking to more out-of-state, graduate, veteran and international students.
“We’re not looking to grow significantly,” said T. David Garcia, associate vice president for enrollment services at Kent State. “If, at the end of the day, we’re flat with our enrollment, that’s a good thing.”