Fall enrollment is highest in the university’s history

Jamie Shearer

Kent State and other area colleges see rise in students even with a bleak economy

The fall enrollment numbers confirm what university officials had been hoping for – a record-breaking 38,457 students attending the eight campuses.

The 11.76 percent enrollment increase is an additional 4,046 students compared to Fall 2008, according to Research, Planning and Institutional Effectiveness reports. Last year’s enrollment only increased by about 1 percent during 2007.

“The more enrollment we have, the more dollars we have to hire faculty, to hire staff to provide services for students, and to keep all the programs and services that are available,” said Mark Ledoux, associate director of admissions, explaining the importance of the increase.

Provost Robert Frank said he has seen preliminary data that suggests Kent State could have the largest enrollment jump in the area.

Even though the University of Akron and Cleveland State University both have higher fall enrollment numbers than last year, they aren’t as high as Kent State’s.

Akron’s enrollment is up 7.5 percent this fall, from 24,202 to 26,028 students.

CSU’s enrollment is up 6.3 percent, from 15,774 to 16,400 students.

Jeff Chen, director of Institutional Research at CSU, attributes the growth to several factors, including new buildings, a maturing honors program and the economy.

When the economy is good, people work more, he said. When the economy isn’t good, more people take classes.

Bowling Green State University’s fall enrollment is down 2.3 percent, from 20,228 to 19,768 students. University spokesman Dave Kielmeyer said the university had one of the bigger classes in its history graduate in 2008, and the size of the class wasn’t sustainable.

But even with this decrease, the number of full-time Bowling Green students is up from 13,865 to 13,939 students.

Kent State’s achievement is the result of university-wide efforts and a focus on improving enrollment and retention – and the economy.

“Universities tend to be counter-cyclical,” Frank wrote in an e-mail. “Enrollment grows when the economy is weaker.”

But he also attributes the growth to other initiatives within the university, such as the Destination Kent program for incoming freshmen, helping admitted students get clear information and making their entry into the university easier, and a more intense approach to recruitment.

Ledoux, who has been involved in the new approach to recruitment, said admissions in the past year expanded out-of-state recruitment, increased college fair and high school visits and assigned counselors to students from specific regions.

Stanley Wearden, dean for the College of Communication and Information, has noticed the benefit of following up on an application. The college had a 5.51 percent enrollment increase at the Kent campus.

“Those efforts seem to have helped us as well and helped across the university,” he said.

Wearden said his college also changed the way it recruited this year.

“It’s a big step to have faculty and staff who are really making the phone calls, sending the e-mails, answering the questions . things that we did sort of sporadically in the past but not in the systematic way that we’ve been doing them this past year,” he said.

A recurring theme between departments is the effort to establish relationships between the university and students.

“I think the difference is that we’re realizing now, in a competitive environment, that we have to have that personal touch, that Kent State has got to stand out in that way,” Wearden said.

Contact academic affairs reporter Jamie Shearer at [email protected].

More than 1,000 international students enrolled this semester

Kent State has a university-record international enrollment this fall, with 1,091 international students enrolled as of yesterday.

“This is significant because it places Kent State in the 1,000 student club,” said David L. Di Maria, director of international student recruitment, admissions and advising.

That means that Kent State has joined a group of institutions that have more than 1,000 international students enrolled. The university will be recognized for this increase in November, when the Institution for International Education releases its annual Open Doors report.

Only a small number of universities break this barrier. According to the Open Doors report for the 2007-2008 academic year, only 153 institutions in the country had more than 1,000 international students enrolled.

“We’ve never had 1,000 students,” Di Maria said.

He noted many reasons for this increase.

“I think Kent State is an attractive university in terms of options,” Di Maria said. He cited location, safety and the small-town atmosphere of Kent as reasons that draw in students.

The largest group of international students comes from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. At 411 students, China, Taiwan and Hong Kong account for about 38 percent of international students.

The reason for this increase is the Kent State China Center in Beijing. The center, directed by Bei Cai, assistant professor of communication studies at Kent State Stark, works to recruit students and reach out to the community, Di Maria said. In addition to the center, Kent State’s Web site is available in Chinese to increase accessibility to interested students.

“I think it’s a good model to have people on the ground, recruiting students,” Di Maria said. “It makes Kent State seem closer even though it’s on the other side of the ocean.”

Kent State plans to focus on recruiting in India and Turkey next.

– Kelly Petryszyn