Enrollment down at Kent State, still up at other local schools

Kate Bigam

Kent State administrators have made student retention a primary focus this year, and with good reason, it seems.

All Akron-area institutions reported an increase of 3 percent or more in student enrollment, with Hiram, Walsh and Stark State reporting double-digit increases. Kent State and Cleveland State both reported enrollment decreases.

David Creamer, senior vice president for administration, estimated a four percent decrease, about 945 students, in last Fall’s Kent campus student enrollment of about 23,625.

Creamer is unsure why Kent State experienced a decline while other universities’ enrollments increased, but said the decrease is due in part to lower numbers of transfer students than in previous years.

“Kent State has always had a large number of transfers, but we tend to know less about why they come than other students,” Creamer said. “Sometimes they increase not so much based on something positive at Kent State but something negative at another university.”

Pete Goldsmith, vice president for enrollment management and student affairs, said increased competition has given would-be students more options.

“There are lots of factors that play into deciding to either choose a university or leave a university,” Goldsmith said.

A university’s location, cost and program availability all affect students’ choice, and he said transfer students may choose (or not choose) Kent State based on how well their credits transfer.

Creamer added that record graduating classes in the past two years have made replacing all graduating students nearly impossible.

“It is good news that more students are being successful at Kent State, but we must be able to maintain our enrollment,” he said.

Kent State has implemented a variety of programs geared to retain current students by “thinking about how we can really make connections so if students are having problems, we know sooner rather than later,” Goldsmith said.

Kent State’s freshman class size and freshman retention rate have decreased slightly, but Creamer said they are still in keeping with averages from the past five years.

According to Kent State’s Official 15th Day statistics, the last time the Kent campus experienced an enrollment increase was in the Fall 2004, when statistics showed only a .43 percent increase. In Fall 2005, main campus enrollment decreased by nearly 3 percent.

Official enrollment statistics for this semester will not be available until the 15th day of classes, said Sally Kandel, associate vice president for research, planning and institutional effectiveness.

Contact administration reporter Kate Bigam at [email protected].