Enrollment rises at Kent campus, down at regionals for many universities


Regional enrollment falls for many universities

Marissa Barnhart

Kent State’s enrollment has increased at its main campus while its regional campuses have seen a decrease in enrollment — a common trend for regional campuses among Ohio universities.

Kent State’s 15-day enrollment statistics were released Friday on the university’s research, planning and institutional effectiveness website. T. David Garcia, the associate vice president for enrollment management, said he is “very pleased” with the Kent campus’ enrollment rate, and also noted there are rises in enrollment for the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Digital Sciences.

“Enrollment is up 1.6 percent on Kent campus, which is another record for spring,” Garcia said.

Kent State’s main campus has gained 435 students since last spring.

The University of Akron’s main campus enrollment is down 4.85 percent, which Laura Massie, former director of media relations for Akron, attributes to the university’s change in open admission, which is part of a new enrollment strategy called “Inclusive Pathways.”

Caroline Miller, the senior associate vice president of enrollment management at the University of Cincinnati, said their main campus enrollment has risen 2.2 percent for both undergraduate and graduate students.

According to official enrollment statistics posted by the universities, The Ohio State University’s Columbus campus enrollment has increased by 0.3 percent, and Youngstown State University, which has one campus, has decreased in enrollment by 1.1 percent.

Although Kent campus enrollment has increased, regional-campus enrollment has decreased overall by 9.95 percent — a decrease of 887 students. Ashtabula campus enrollment has decreased the most by 14.84 percent, while Geauga campus enrollment has increased by 5.86 percent.

Garcia said he was not surprised about the decline because regional-campus enrollment has been decreasing for the last two years.

How we compare

Ohio State University:

University total enrollment:

  • Spring 2013: 61,422
  • Spring 2014: 61,341
  • Percent Change: -0.1%

Regional campus total enrollment:

  • Spring 2013: 6,254
  • Spring 2014: 5,987
  • Percent Change: -4.3%

Freshman retention rate:

  • From Spring 2013 to Spring 2014: 132.03% (There was an addition of more than 2,000 students)

Colleges with significant rise in enrollment:

  • College of Business up 21.4%
  • College of Continuing Education up 15.5%

University of Akron:

(*retention rate not listed in Akron statistics)

University total enrollment:

  • Spring 2013: 26,365
  • Spring 2014: 25,086
  • Percent Change: -4.85%

Regional Campus Total Enrollment:

  • Spring 2013: 2,399
  • Spring 2014: 2,287
  • Percent Change: -4.67%

Colleges with significant rise in enrollment:

  • College of Business Administration up 0.71%
  • College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering up 6.21%
  • Honors College up 5.41%

Youngstown State University:

University total enrollment:

  • Spring 2013: 12,966
  • Spring 2014: 12,823
  • Percent Change: -1.1%

    Regional Campus total enrollment:

  • No regional campuses

Freshman retention rate:

  • Spring 2013 to Spring 2014: 87.25% (a change of -12.75%)

Colleges with significant rise in enrollment:

  • College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences up 7.06%
  • School of Graduate Studies and Research up 1.17%

University of Cincinnati:

Main campus enrollment up 2.2%

Regional campus enrollment down 5%

Freshman retention rate: 85%

“We see the economy get better, and that tends to impact students going to regional campuses,” Garcia said. “As unemployment drops, more students are finding employment outside of going to the regional campuses.”

Trumbull campus dean Wanda Thomas, also said the economy plays a role in regional-campus enrollment. She also noted that the amount of nontraditional students at regional campuses factors in because these students typically only enroll for one semester.

“(Non-traditional students) will take one or two classes. They often do not continue to enroll the next semester,” Thomas said.

 Stark campus dean, Walter Wagor, said this year was peculiar because there was a shorter enrollment window for the spring. He said they were affected because there was less time to get in touch with each student to make sure they could make their payments on time.

“We’re all very conscious with retention from fall to spring and from first year to second year,” Wagor said. “We’re doing our best to make sure our students succeed.”

Kent State is not the only university to see a decline in regional campus enrollment.

The University of Akron, which has two regional campuses, saw a 4.67 percent enrollment decrease in its regional campuses.

Out of The Ohio State University’s five regional-campuses, overall regional campus enrollment has decreased by 4.3 percent.

The University of Cincinnati, which has two regional campuses, has seen a 5 percent decrease in enrollment. Miller said this decline is mostly related to the economy and how students who would normally attend the regional campuses are now back in the workforce.

For Kent campus, freshman persistence has increased by 1.3 percent this semester, meaning 93.7 percent of freshmen are returning, compared with 92.4 percent last spring.

Kent State President Lester Lefton attributed the increase in freshmen persistence from fall to spring to the university’s enrollment strategy.

“This is due to our strategy to enroll more students who are academically motivated and prepared for college, as well as the dedicated members of our academic departments who work closely with students, new freshmen in particular, to help them navigate, persist, succeed and reach the finish line with diploma in hand,” Lefton said in Kent State’s official 15-day enrollment report.

Garcia said the university is also trying to increase retention rate from fall semester to fall semester.

“Last year, our fall-to-fall (retention) rate was 77.6 percent,” Garcia said.

“We’re hoping to increase to 78 or 79 percent.”

In Spring 2013, The Ohio State University had 8,138 freshmen enrolled. By Spring 2014, the university’s sophomore class enrollment increased by 2,607 students, making their freshmen retention rate 132.03 percent.

Youngstown State University has a retention rate of 87.25 percent — of the 2,786 freshmen enrolled in Spring 2013, 2,431 returned as sophomores for Spring 2014.

Miller said the University of Cincinnati has a retention rate of 85 percent.  

The College of Arts and Sciences at Kent State has also seen an increase of 1.1 percent — a total of 92 students more than last year.

James L. Blank, the interim dean for the College of Arts and Sciences, said the college has seen healthy enrollment for many years and attributes it to the education received.

“Some colleges have seen a decline in enrollment, so it just really reflects on the quality of education here,” Blank said.

The School of Digital Sciences’ enrollment has risen by 105 students from last spring’s total of 119. The school has seen the largest increase of 62.6 percent in the undergraduate level alone.

Garcia said as more people are finding out about the program, enrollment is expected to rise.

“Given it’s a new program, we’re expecting more students in the future,” Garcia said.

He also said students who change their majors will play a factor into higher enrollment.

Robert Walker, director of the School of Digital Sciences, noted how young the program is, but also said the high enrollment is because, in part, of Kent State offering programs that many schools do not.“Students in this area can’t get cross-cutting programs anywhere else,” Walker said. “Kent State’s the place to be.”

Contact Marissa Barnhart at [email protected].