Enrollment drops at BGSU & Owens
Written by DAVID DUPONT Sentinel Staff Writer
Wednesday, 04 September 2013 10:45
Enrollment is down at both Bowling Green State University and Owens Community College.
BGSU officials reported Tuesday that undergraduate enrollment declined 2.2 percent to 14,500 students from last year after the eighth day of classes.
Owens reported that enrollment dropped 13.6 percent to 14,674 students after 15 days of classes.
BGSU officials Tuesday attributed the drop to the state's greater weight on graduation and completion rates in its higher ed funding formula.
With half the state funding based on graduation rates, BGSU has focused on enrolling students who are better prepared to succeed, even if that means a smaller freshman class.
Director of Admission Gary Swegan said that the class had the strongest high school grades and ACT test scores ever.
The mean high school grade point average for BGSU's entering freshmen is 3.31, while their average ACT score is a 22.6 out of 36.
It's a change in strategy, he said, to bring in students readier to stay in school and graduate.
Joe Frizado, vice provost for academic operations, said this was more a shift in approach "not a complete about face from what Bowling Green has done for 50 years."
Swegan said the impact is felt "at the margins."
Swegan said he was pleased that with the shift the share of multicultural students is down only slightly. The number of students who self-identify as other than Caucasian is just under 20 percent of the freshman class.
The change is, Frizado said, a financial trade off, however. With fewer students taking fewer courses, the university is taking a hit in the amount of tuition it collects. And tuition remains the institution's biggest source of revenue. That should balance out, however, as more students go on to receive diplomas.
BGSU attracted the students with higher grades by strengthening its honors offerings. The Honors Program became the Honors College, said Albert Colom, vice president of the Division of Enrollment Management. And a larger number of students are enrolled as honors students.
Also it is shifting how some scholarships are offered, he said.
At Owens, Betsy Johnson, vice president of enrollment management and student services, said that the improving economy with more people going back to work resulted in fewer students taking credit courses at the community college.
This is a long established trend in community colleges, she said. When jobs are scarce people decide to go to school, she said. Then when the economy improves, they take jobs. After they are settled in their new jobs, Johnson said, some may return to take courses.
Owens is faced with the same state mandate to hike completion or graduation rates, she said, but the picture is more complicated for community colleges.
Students come in with different goals. They may just want to take a course or two, or they may want to earn an associate degree. Or they may transfer with or without a degree to a four-year institution.
Offering credit courses, she said, is part of what Owens does.
"Just because they are not taking the credit courses, we are still training a lot of people in Northwest Ohio," she said.
That non-credit training takes place in the college's workforce and community development division. "We help prepare more than 10,000 workers for hundreds of companies in the surrounding communities," said Brian Paskavan, executive director of workforce and community services, in a statement released by the college.
BGSU also reported its graduate student headcount was stable at 2,464. Enrollment at Firelands campus increased 1.3 percent to 2,443. That campus attracts more non-traditional students, said Frizado, and has lower tuition. Some students will start there, he said, before transferring to the main campus.