Bigger is not always better at Kent State

Rebekah Mosora

Smallest regional campuses continue to grow and develop


Credit: Steve Schirra

Kent State’s smallest regional campuses have seen an increase in enrollment while enrollment numbers at the larger campuses have decreased.

The Ashtabula, East Liverpool, Geauga and Tuscarawas campuses all saw an increase in enrollment from last fall.

“Once you know what the students need and you build the schedule around the students’ needs, it changes a lot of things,” said David Mohan, dean of the Geauga Campus.

Enrollment at the Geauga campus has increased 6.4 percent compared to last fall’s enrollment numbers. Mohan credits this increase to their receptiveness to students’ opinions and ideas. He said they frequently distribute informal student surveys on campus.

“The students have to become the centerpiece in building a schedule,” Mohan said.

More than half of the students at the Geauga campus both work and go to school. Mohan said the Geauga campus structures the schedule to accommodate working students and encourage full-time enrollment.

“We are not only seeing an increase in enrollment,” Mohan said. “We are also seeing a significant increase in the number of hours that students are taking.”

Patricia Book, vice president for regional development, said Twinsburg Center, a satellite of the Geauga campus, has created another access point for students.

“They have captured a whole number of enrollments there that they might not have captured at the Geauga campus location,” Book said.

Enrollment at the East Liverpool Campus has increased 6.5 percent in comparison with last fall’s enrollment numbers.

Book said she credits the increased enrollment at the East Liverpool Campus to the new collaborations that have been formed between the East Liverpool and Salem campuses.

“This has created a synergy among the faculty and communities there,” Book said. “I have a sense that this really energized the East Liverpool campus.”

Susan Stocker, dean of the Ashtabula Campus, said the development of new programs and low cost of tuition, relative to other colleges in the area, are the major things that contributed to the increased enrollment at the Ashtabula Campus.

“There is not one person on the campus whose job it is to be responsible for enrollment,” Stocker said. “Enrollment is everybody’s responsibility.”

A restructuring of the admission into the nursing and physical therapy programs has doubled the capacity of those programs, Stocker said. In addition, new programs in hospitality management as well as entertainment arts and technology have attracted students to the campus.

“We really haven’t fully realized the possibility in terms of increased enrollment in the new programs,” Stocker said.

Stocker said one area where the Ashtabula Campus is seeing increased enrollment is traditional-age college students, particularly those at the top of their high school class.

The assessment of students’ needs and development of new programs are also the focus of the campuses that had decreased enrollment this fall.

Wanda Thomas, dean of the Trumbull Campus, said they are doing assessments to see which programs students are interested in. They are also looking into offering courses in non-traditional methods such as shortened classes and weekend classes.

Thomas said the cost of tuition is a factor for the decreased enrollment at the Trumbull Campus.

“There are some various issues about the economy in this particular area,” Thomas said. “You’ve got plants closing and many people who need the education can’t afford it because of the cost.”

Thomas said the Trumbull Campus is working with local businesses to establish scholarships that would allow potential students to enroll at the university. The businesses would provide funds for tuition and books to a student, and in return, the student agrees to work for them in the future.

There has been a good response from local businesses to the idea of creating this sort of program, she said.

“The next step is to roll out this formal program and begin to try to get business and industry leaders to offer these scholarships,” Thomas said.

The Stark Campus, Kent State’s largest regional campus, is also looking at developing new relationships in the community to promote increased enrollment. Stark’s enrollment, which had been steadily increasing, decreased by 4.2 percent this fall.

Betsy Boze, dean of the Stark Campus, said the college is working on several new programs that would run jointly with Stark State College. She said they are also working on developing more effective methods for high school recruitment.

To evaluate the cause for the decreased enrollment, Boze said they asked students why they chose not to enroll in classes after applying to the Stark Campus. Many students replied that the cost of tuition was too high and that there were other less expensive alternatives in the area. In addition, many first-year freshmen worried about the possibility of a faculty walk-out and decided to enroll at other universities.

“Now that that’s over, we’ll have a different market next fall and hopefully can recruit some of these students back home,” Boze said.

Although the Stark Campus saw a decrease in enrollment this fall, Boze said that preliminary registration numbers show an increase in enrollment for the spring semester.

“We’re looking at a lot of alternatives, and we’re moving quickly,” Boze said. “We have our preview days coming up, and I think we will be back in a growth mode quickly.”

Contact regional campus reporter Rebekah Mosora at [email protected].