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OHIO celebrates significant gains in student enrollment

This is the first article in a two-part series exploring Ohio University’s enrollment and retention numbers. The second article in the series, which will focus on retention efforts, will be published in Compass on Thursday, Nov. 13.

University-wide efforts to attract and retain students have resulted in gains in both Ohio University enrollment and measures of student success.

The University’s latest enrollment numbers reflect another year of record growth for both the Athens Campus and the institution as a whole. As of Oct. 31, preliminary numbers showed a total of 39,212 students enrolled at Ohio University, up about 1 percent from last year. These numbers are a result of thoughtful, data-driven development and implementation of strategic enrollment and location plans, according to Executive Vice President and Provost Pam Benoit. Innovative academic programs, enhanced financial aid and robust recruitment efforts are all part of the success.

“Ohio University is growing and increasing its footprint across Ohio in a way that incorporates multi-modal levels of teaching, including online learning, our regional campuses and our new locations in Dublin and Cleveland,” Benoit said. “Building on our strong reputation of academic success and transformative campus experiences, we are offering more alternatives for students to join the Bobcat family. We continue to increase access for students from southeastern Ohio and from multicultural, first-generation, or international backgrounds. Access to the OHIO experience continues to improve, even as we recruit some of our most academically promising students ever. Enrollment Management, under the leadership of Vice Provost Craig Cornell, is leading the way for growing the institution carefully and strategically.”

The Class of 2018

This fall the University welcomed the largest and most-diverse first-year class in its 210-year history. OHIO’s Class of 2018 includes 4,379 students, up 135 students or 3.1 percent from last year’s record-setting first-year class. In fact, OHIO saw the largest percentage of growth for a first-year class when compared to the state’s other large public universities.

In addition to being OHIO’s largest-ever first-year class, the Class of 2018 also set a number of other records, including:

  • In-state students – 3,789, up 160 (4.4 percent) from fall 2013
  • Multicultural students – 609, up 46 (8.2 percent) from fall 2013
  • Students from Appalachian counties – 744, up 67 (9.9 percent) from fall 2013
  • First-generation students – 1,065, up 172 (19.3 percent) from fall 2013
  • Average high school GPA – 3.43, up 0.01 from fall 2013

“The overall number of first-year students is noteworthy, but what we’re most excited about are these other numbers, which reflect populations that we have been concentrating on and that are aligned with our commitment to academic accessibility and quality,” said Craig Cornell, vice provost for enrollment management. “That’s a very unique piece in our enrollment picture, and I think it reflects University-wide efforts to shape our first-year classes.”

According to Cornell, OHIO’s Strategic Enrollment Management Plan outlines the University’s desire for smart, strategic and sustainable growth and clearly identifies areas where the University is eager and able to grow.

In addition to careful planning, Cornell attributed the successful recruitment of this year’s first-year class to OHIO’s Signature Awards program, a set of scholarships and grants that were awarded for the first time to this year’s first-year students. The program includes more than $2.1 million in merit-based scholarships, supportive need-based grants, and a set of awards that blends both merit- and need-based criteria.

“The Signature Awards program was significant in bringing about some of these milestones,” Cornell said. “We know we have a unique balance of both high-achieving and high-need students and both of those combined, so we carefully crafted this program to reflect that.”

Other enrollment milestones

Ohio University also is celebrating a number of overall enrollment milestones this semester, seeing record enrollment in its undergraduate, graduate and medical programs, leading to record enrollment on the Athens Campus and in the overall University system.

As of Oct. 31, overall enrollment on the Athens Campus stood at 23,267, up 675 students or nearly 3 percent from this time last fall.

The overall enrollment increase on the Athens Campus is the result of significant gains in undergraduate and graduate enrollment. The Athens Campus saw an increase of 285 undergraduate students (up about 1.6 percent) this semester compared to last semester and an increase of 318 graduate students (up nearly 6.4 percent). Cornell noted that most of the University’s new graduate students are enrolled in online degree programs.

The University also experienced historic enrollment increases in its medical program, following the opening of the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Dublin location this past summer. As of Oct. 31, the University had 610 students enrolled in its medical program, up 72 students at nearly 12 percent from last fall semester. That trend is expected to continue as the Heritage College prepares to open another location in Cleveland next summer.

After several years of significant growth in its international student population, the number of international students enrolled at OHIO this semester is down slightly from 1,881 students in fall 2013 to 1,845 students this fall, but data on applications indicates the University’s international presence is broadening.

“We are finding international recruitment to be an increasingly competitive market,” Cornell said. “Our international numbers have leveled off, but we are seeing significant diversification in the number of countries where students are applying to Ohio University.”

According to Cornell, 90 countries were represented in the 2014-15 first-year application pool.

A snapshot of OHIO’s enrollment

Ohio University's Office of Institutional Research provided the following enrollment numbers, which reflect the University's enrollment as of Oct. 31, 2014:

  • Athens Undergraduates – 17,667
  • Athens Graduate Students – 4,990
  • Athens Medical Students – 610
  • Total Athens Campus Enrollment – 23,267
  • eLearning Students – 5,962
  • Chillicothe Campus – 2,306
  • Eastern Campus – 1,078
  • Lancaster Campus – 2,466
  • Southern Campus – 2,016
  • Zanesville Campus – 2,117
  • Total OHIO Enrollment – 39,212

Recruiting efforts yield double-digit increases in campus visitors

Ohio University’s recruiting efforts take a comprehensive approach, involving various modes of outreach to prospective students and incorporating the entire Bobcat family. Data demonstrates the effectiveness of those efforts, showing large increases in the number of prospective students and their guests throughout the world who are visiting the University both online and in-person.

The tools the Office of Undergraduate Admissions uses to reach out to prospective students include:

High school and community college visits

College fairs

Social media

College search tools

Various forms of communication, including personal phone calls from current students (In October alone, OHIO students called 9,681 prospective students with 1,598 successful conversations.)

Faculty-driven messaging and programming

The office also relies on campus tours to give prospective students and their guests an opportunity to experience OHIO.

According to the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, since 2011 the estimated number of prospective students and their guests who have physically visited the Athens Campus is up 18 percent.

Figures show that approximately 19,660 visitors, including prospective students and their guests, came to campus from July 1, 2011, through June 30, 2012. That figure rose to 20,830 the following year and to 28,556 this past year when individuals from 42 states and Puerto Rico visited the campus.

Those campus visits resulted in 71.9 percent of prospective first-year student visitors applying to OHIO and 85.6 percent of prospective transfer student visitors seeking admission here.

The University’s eTour site, which allows visitors to take virtual tours of both the Athens Campus and its residence halls, has also seen growth in recent years, increasing 34 percent since 2011. From 2011-12, 61,276 individuals visited the eTour site – a number that rose to 90,016 from 2012-13 but dropped to 82,590 this past year.

According to the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, in the past 30 days individuals in 50 states, the District of Columbia and from 70 different countries visited the site. Data also shows that eTour visitors spend an average of eight minutes on the site.

“We have to throw a broad net in our recruiting process,” Craig Cornell, vice provost for enrollment management, said, explaining that OHIO’s physical location doesn’t allow the University to recruit from a nearby metropolitan area. “But we have the benefit of exposing Ohio University more broadly through our outreach, communications and University Communication and Marketing efforts with the University’s branding.

“Students are finding us, they’re looking into us, and they’re choosing OHIO,” Cornell said. “And that’s the result of many individuals’ efforts, including our great alumni base that loves to talk about their incredible experiences here.”