This article was originally published in Ohio Capital Journal.
Almost all public universities and community colleges in Ohio have experienced declining enrollments in the past decade.
Ohio University’s main and regional campuses and community colleges experienced a 12% drop in enrollment from fall 2022 to fall 2012, according to the Ohio Department of Higher Education. Ohio’s public higher education institutions overall saw a 12% decrease from 527,190 to 462,949.
Despite the declines, Randy Gardner, director of Ohio’s Department of Higher Education, isn’t too concerned about declining enrollment.
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“I am not indifferent,” he said, “but more hopeful than anxious.”
According to National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. But some Ohio universities were already in decline before the pandemic hit.
“I don’t want to blame the pandemic for all of this, but if you think about it, you have classes that came in two or three years ago, and they’re still in college, so those numbers cool off and paint a picture that’s not as positive as it really is,” Gardner said. .
Gardner said students graduating from high school may choose to go to a technical vocational center instead of college.
He expects to see an increase in freshmen enrolling full-time for the first time this fall.
“I expect a further meaningful increase in enrollment and new students,” Gardner said. “We can’t predict the future for sure, but I think the trends are positive.”
Ohio’s high school graduation rates increased over the same time period from 2012 to 2022.
The four-year high school graduation rate for 2021 and 2020 was 87.2% — compared to 81.3% in 2012, according to Ohio Department of Education.
There were 293,306 students enrolled on Ohio University’s main and regional campuses in fall 2022 compared to 334,264 students in fall 2012.
The University of Akron had the largest decline in total enrollment (-48%), followed by Wright State University (-39%), and Shawnee State University (-29%).
“Many institutions of higher learning — both in the state and across the country — are seeing enrollment declines due to a number of factors that have been in the news, not the least of which is the impact of COVID-19. The University of Akron is grappling with the same challenges,” said university spokeswoman Christine Boyd.
The Akron Beacon Journal reported in August 2020 The University of Akron Board of Trustees agreed to cut about $44 million from its budget.
Ohio University experienced a 21% drop in enrollment from fall 2012 to fall 2022 and has had three rounds of layoffs in 2020.
“The university faced budgetary challenges prior to the pandemic as a result of changing enrollment processes, which made it necessary for us to respond more urgently to address our new reality,” university officials said at the time in a statement prepared for June 2020.
The reason for the decline in enrollment is “complex and multifactorial,” said Dave Meredith, vice president of enrollment management at the University of Toledo. UT experienced an enrollment decline of 28% from fall 2012 to fall 2022.
“If it were one thing,” he said, “we would have analyzed it years ago.”
Regional public universities like UT tend to draw most of their students from within 150 miles of their campuses, so if an area’s population drops, those universities have fewer students to draw from, Meredith said.
“There are fewer high school graduates in our backyard,” he said. “Other residents that we tend to recruit are drawn into the economy because the economy is doing so well.”
UT has also taken in fewer transfer students than Owens Community College, since their enrollment has also declined.
Prospective students may decide not to pursue higher education due to concerns about incurring student loan debt.
“Increasingly, people are resistant to getting any kind of loan,” Meredith said.
There are 1,818,300 student borrowers in Ohio who together owe $63.1 billion as of December 31, according to the US Department of Education.
The average student loan balance in Ohio was $34,923, according to Small Business Website AdvisorSmith’s 2021 Report “The states with the highest student loan debt.”
However, some universities have seen an increase in enrollment.
Central State University enrollment jumped from 2,125 students in fall 2012 to 5,395 students in fall 2022. Northeastern Ohio Medical College also saw enrollment rise, going from 789 students in fall 2012 to 983 students in fall 2022.
The University of Cincinnati saw a 14% increase in enrollment, and Ohio State University saw a modest 2% increase.
There were 169,643 students enrolled in community colleges in fall 2022, compared to 192,926 students in fall 2012.
“If the economy is doing well, that population is drying up because these people can get jobs,” Meredith said. “When the economy isn’t doing well, community colleges tend to have higher enrollments.”
Belmont Technical College had the largest decline in total enrollment (-56%), followed by Owens Community College (-55%), and Rhodes State College (-47%).
Eastern Gateway Community College has increased enrollment from 2,561 in fall 2012 to 30,348 in fall 2022. Edison State Community College has seen a 40% increase in enrollment, and Northwest Community College has seen a 22% increase in enrollment.
Ohio Capital Journal It is part of the State Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. The Ohio Capital Journal maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor David DeWitt for questions: i[email protected]. Follow the Ohio Capital Journal on Facebook And Twitter.