Ohio University Looking at New Ways to Raise Student Enrollment

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ST. CLAIRSVILLE (WOUB) — With enrollment dipping down last year, Ohio University is looking at plans to bring in a new crop of honors students.

The university saw enrollment decline between six and eight percent last year, equivalent to 250 to 300 less students, according to Craig Cornell, senior vice provost for Strategic Enrollment Management.

Cornell presented projected enrollment numbers during a recent meeting of the OU Board of Trustees.

According to the Fiscal Year 2020 budget approved at the most recent board meeting, gross undergraduate tuition and fee revenues are budgeted at $286.8 million, down from $298.7 million in the 2019 fiscal year. 2019 was a slight dip from 2018’s $297.8 million, but a significant decline from 2017’s $305.3 million revenue, and 2016’s $304.5 million.

OU President M. Duane Nellis said one of the potential causes for the decline in enrollment is less high school graduates in Ohio. 

With many universities competing for fewer and fewer students, OU has to broaden the way they recruit qualified students, Nellis said.

“That’s really an important part of I think of our future success as we look to new type of experiences for our students,” Nellis said. 

Despite the shown enrollment drop, President M. Duane Nellis said new ideas, designs and initiatives like the new honors program, have already brought in many freshman. 

“These are 390 students that have not only applied, but have also made their residential housing deposit and that’s an important part in confirming their attendance at the university,” Nellis said. “And of course, they’re also excited about the opportunity to live in a learning-type of situation where they have other honor students to interact with.”

The honors program will complement the Honors Tutorial College by bringing in students who were not qualified in the top 30 or 40 for HTC, but are still strong students, according to Nellis.

Nellis said 45 students started in the program at the beginning of the last school year, but that a new design is coming to the program this fall. That redesign involves a different approach to learning, he said.

“It’s also a commitment of our faculty to create a new learning paradigm for not only those honor students,” Nellis said. “But we believe that the approach with more engaged learning, more experiential learning, more out of the classroom learning opportunities will permeate through what we hope to be a new curriculum design for the whole university has we look to the future.”

Ohio University is hoping for 1,000 to 1,200 more students once the honors program is fully operational.