By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer
Continuing a decade-long trend, enrollment at the University of Toledo is down 5.7 per cent from last year, a decline that could cost the university millions of dollars.
But university officials say they are optimistic that growth in the freshman class this year soon will reverse the trend.
“I’m very optimistic that by this fall, we’ll see an increase in enrollment,” said Dr. Robert Abella, vice president of enrollment services and placement.
According to preliminary enrollment statistics, UT’s spring student head count is 17,908, a drop from 19,000 last year.
But this year’s freshman class of 2,750 is 13.5 per cent above last year’s total of around 2,400, Dr. Abella said, and applications for next year’s class are up about 20 per cent. He said the university hopes to attract 3,200 freshmen next year.
The enrollment numbers aren’t just a matter of pride: A shift of just a few hundred students can cost the university dearly.
University President Vik Kapoor has said that an average student is worth about $6,000 to UT, $3,000 of that in tuition and $3,000 in state subsidies.
Going by his math, this year’s overall enrollment decline could mean a loss of almost $6.6 million in funding for the cash-strapped university.
But the numbers are preliminary, and the state does not compute its subsidy levels until it receives the final head count at the end of the spring semester.
Dr. Kapoor, who has been president for nearly 14 months, has set increasing enrollment as one of his administration’s highest goals.
He has said that his goal is 25,000 students, to be reached within 10 years.
The university’s enrollment has been in a steady decline since its peak in 1991, when it enrolled 24,969 students.
Dr. Abella said that with fewer and fewer freshman high school students interested in UT in recent years, the university has suffered from an odd arrangement: Its junior and senior classes were larger than its freshman and sophomore classes.
He said that this year’s overall enrollment decline can be attributed to losing a very large senior class last year and that, eventually, the large freshman classes would boost enrollment again.
Dr. Kapoor was unavailable for comment last night.
Meanwhile, the remarkable boom at Owens Community College continues. The two-year college, which some UT officials fear is siphoning off UT students, grew 12 per cent on its two campuses, jumping from 13,514 to 15,141.
The college’s Perrysburg Township campus now enrolls 13,286 students, up 11 per cent from last spring’s 11,970. Its campus in Findlay experienced an even bigger jump, up 20 per cent from its spring, 1999, total of 1,855.
Since 1998, Owens has seen its overall enrollment increase more than 24 per cent. In a statement, Owens President Daniel Brown credited the boost to the college’s commitment to keeping costs low. He said more growth might be on the way, with Owens’s tuition scheduled to drop this summer from $79 a credit hour to $75.
Bowling Green State University had a much smaller increase in its enrollment. The preliminary spring, 2000, head count on its main campus is 15,909. That’s a 1.7 per cent jump from spring, 1999, numbers. Enrollment at its Firelands campus in Huron, O., was up 1.6 per cent, from 2,004 to 2,036.