University caps incoming freshmen; Fall 2013 enrollment to hit record high

Graphic by Kate Edwards

Katy Coduto

Freshmen enrollment commitments to Kent State have hit a record high for the second time in three years, forcing the university to place a limit on how many freshmen can attend the Kent campus for Fall 2013.

The Kent campus is at capacity for first-time freshmen, with more than 4,200 coming in for the fall semester, according to a university press release. This means that any freshmen who apply to Kent State after June 17 will be given the option to attend one of the university’s regional campuses, university spokesman Eric Mansfield said.

Those freshmen will also be allowed to start attending the Kent campus in Spring 2014.

Randall Lennox, an Institutional Research Information Officer in the Research, Planning and Institutional Effectiveness (RPIE) office at Kent State, said that while the numbers won’t be official until the 15th day of the fall semester, the early numbers appear promising for the university.

“Official numbers won’t be available until after Sept. 3,” Lennox said. “[We] work closely with Enrollment Management and Student Affairs [in] tracking new student applications and admits, and enrollment looks strong for Fall 2013.”

“A good problem for the university”

Mansfield said he attributes the increase in enrollment commitments to the university’s marketing plan, which main focus was to attract high-achieving students.

“The initiative that we put together, the intentional marketing of our strong programs to reach high-achieving students, is working,” he said. “We’re offering good programs to students, and we’re doing a good job of offering additional dollars in the form of merit scholarships and trustee scholarships.”

Mansfield said that while the enrollment numbers overall are good for the university, the quality of the students coming in is even better.

“If you look, three out of four students in this freshmen class have at least a 3.0,” he said. “The class average GPA is 3.3. This is a good problem to have.”

Mansfield said that the university is hoping this trend will continue over the coming years.

“This is the type of success you try to sustain,” he said. “We’d like to sustain this next year, three years, five years from now. It has exponential consequences for our campus.”

Consequences across the Kent campus

The increase in the number of freshmen at the Kent campus has a number of positive consequences for the university, according to Mansfield.

He said that having a strong academic group coming in means that classes overall should improve.

“We know that good students combined with more good students leads to good classes,” Mansfield said. “This also means that a foundation is set for the next year’s sophomore class to further their success.”

He also said that students are meeting criteria set by the university admissions office early on when they apply.

“We know that incoming students, based on the criteria, are students who have already proven themselves at the high school level,” he said. “It sets them up for real success here at Kent State.”

While Mansfield said that classes should improve, it is still too early to tell what the ramifications will be when it comes to those looking to live on campus.

Daniel Shonk, assistant director for assignments and marketing for Residence Services, said that they are beginning to closely monitor the numbers as freshmen pick their residence halls.

“We’re not at a point where we’ve had to make any decisions,” he said. “We’re just watching our numbers right now.”

Shonk said that Residence Services will work closely with admissions to see how enrollment numbers compare to the residence halls’ capacity for the fall semester.

Similarly, RPIE will continue to watch the numbers, as they will use the official numbers in the fall to give offices throughout the university information they may need for planning purposes, according to Lennox.

Other universities seeing decreases

While Kent State is seeing freshmen enrollment up for the second time in three years and the overall quality of students improving, other state universities are seeing decreases in enrollment.

Enrollment at the Kent campus has increased every year over the past five years, reaching 27,706 students in Fall 2012, according to RPIE’s enrollment statistics. First-time freshmen enrollment has fluctuated, with 4,154 first-time freshmen enrolling in Fall 2011 and hitting Kent campus capacity. Last year was down slightly, with 3,959 first-time freshmen enrolling.

However, the outlook remains positive for Kent State, especially compared to other universities.

“There are other universities struggling to fill enrollment, with much less high-achieving students,” Mansfield said. “We’re finding we’re on the good end of that spectrum.”

Neighboring University of Akron saw a decrease in total freshmen enrollment from Fall 2011 to Fall 2012, while Ohio University saw a similar, though smaller, drop. The Ohio State University and Cleveland State University both saw slight increases in their freshmen enrollment, but both schools also saw drops in total enrollment overall.

“We have a record number [of students] paying their money upfront and logging on [to Flashline] and securing their housing, and this shows us that Kent State is the place they want to go,” Mansfield said. “You have a hot commodity here.”

Contact Katy Coduto at [email protected].