PERRYSBURG — Spring enrollment is continuing a downward trend at Owens Community College.
At the February board of trustees’ meeting, Amy Giordano, vice president of Enrollment Management and Student Services, reported that the subtotal enrollment for spring term was down 16.3% from this time last year.
“This is not where we want to, or need to be, as an institution,” she said.
The college’s 14th day headcount for spring semester was 6,646, compared to 8,465 from spring 2020, according to numbers supplied by Owens.
That number reflects what happened in the fall when enrollment was down 14.9% from fall 2019, which was was 6,406, Giordano said.
Knowing the declining trend would continue, her office focused its efforts on recruiting direct-from-high-school students and returning students, she said.
The intent of the Spring Start Scholarship, which was started with the class of 2020, is to entice members of that graduating class who have not started in higher education.
“We leveraged this opportunity to reach our K-12 partners, as well as sharing on the college’s social and mass media channels,” Giordano said. “As a result, we were just four students short of our pre-pandemic target for this population.”
Attracting returning students back to campus is more challenging, she said.
Returning students are those who were previously enrolled but have not continued for at least three semesters.
“This is a challenging population to recruit, but we put in place a number of new tactics this summer and fall to drive student enrollment,” Giordano said.
Her office completed direct mail and social media outreach and exceeded its original pre-pandemic target and increased enrollment in this area by 7.1% over last spring.
“The pandemic continues to create challenges across business, industry and education. We are doing all we can to support our students, both prospective and continuing, so that we can meet our mission of providing high quality and affordable education,” Giordano said.
As part of her report, which was given virtually, Giordano announced Shelley Whitaker as the new athletic director. She has 19 years of administrative and head softball coaching experience and has worked in all aspects collegiate athletics departments including budget management, fundraising, personnel, compliance, Title IX investigations and recruiting.
Whitaker holds a master’s degree from Muskingum University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Rio Grande, where she was a scholarship student-athlete.
Also at the meeting, the board:
• Learned from trustee Chair Mary Beth Hammond that the presidential search is on schedule. Applications were due Feb. 5, she said.
Final selection and announcement of the next president will be targeted for mid-April, and the new president will be invited to begin work on or about July 1.
• Heard from Interim President Bill Balzer that the college received $9.31 million in Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds, through Sept. 30, 2022.
A minimum amount of $1.93 million will be used for student aid and a maximum amount of $7.34 million will be used to defray expenses associated with the coronavirus including lost revenue and additional expenses already incurred, he said.
• Approved a student-preferred first name policy.
Currently, students are required to use their legal first name and do not have the option to use a preferred first name, Giordano said.
“This can lead to frustration, and students not feeling welcome by our campus community,” she said.
If a student opts in to this preferred first name process, that first name would be used in campus operations such as class rosters, email address, and college username. Certain college related functions such as the creation of an Owens ID card, college issued degrees and certificates, and transcripts would continue to use a student’s legal name, Giordano said.
• Approved allocating local funds not to exceed $2.8 million for Phase 1 of its maintenance plan.
Phase I includes projects for electrical, fire protection, HVAC and plumbing renovations.