Of OU's five regional campuses, only one has seen an increase in enrollment from 2013 to 2014, according to Ohio Department of Education data

This is the third article in a series of three examining Ohio University’s enrollment.

Though Ohio University’s main campus enrollment has grown significantly in the past 10 years, the regional campuses have been seeing declines.

Of OU's five regional campuses, only one has seen an increase in enrollment from 2013 to 2014, according to Ohio Department of Education data

OU’s regional campuses are not alone in decreasing enrollment. Almost all regional campuses across Ohio have seen declines. For example, Kent State University, in one of the regions hardest hit when the economy changes, has seen up to 11 percent declines in its regional campus enrollment.

“If you take a look at the Kent State campuses for comparison, they have suffered some significant hits over the past few years,” Bill Willan, executive dean for Regional Higher Education at OU, said. “One of the reasons I think our Eastern campuses and our Zanesville campuses have not felt quite the impact of some of their neighbors has been that we have on those two campuses strong baccalaureate programs and at the Zanesville campus, a strong associate’s degree in nursing program.”

When the economy falls, regional enrollment increases, and main campus enrollment decreases, he said.

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When the economy crashed in 2008, he said, regional enrollment shot up, but after it peaked in 2010, it has seen significant declines.

“Generally when the economy improves, the two-year sector is hit the hardest, because those programs are technical in nature and lead directly to jobs,” Willan said. “We’ve seen all around us two-year institutions that have taken a significant drop in enrollment as a comparison.”

Willan said the university has not had to cut any faculty positions at the regional campuses so far.

“We have had to combine some support positions, not refill positions that opened, and we have faculty who work on (multiple) campuses,” Willan said. “We’ve managed so far to not make any significant cuts.”

Officials said College Credit Plus, a program in which high school students can receive high school and college credit at the same time, has also made it difficult to maintain enrollment and budgets at the regional campuses.

“It has a financial impact on all institutions of higher education because the students are taking courses and the universities are being reimbursed at a significantly lower rate,” OU’s Budget Director Chad Mitchell said. “You have enrollment declines (and) College Credit Plus, and so it's been a substantial problem for regional campuses in terms of less tuition revenue.”

Mitchell said the number of students not attending classes full-time, a minimum of 12 credit hours, impacts the budget for the regional campuses.

"For regional campus students, the headcount has actually grown, but it's more and more of them are part time," Mitchell said. "Of those part-time, they’re even taking less credit hours, so every time they take less credit hours, they go down in the amount of dollars they pay.”

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Regional campuses are subject to the statewide tuition freeze for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 academic years, meaning the university can't raise tuition to compensate for a loss in revenue.

“(Regional campuses) are part of the institution, and … part of the discussion is how do we operate the regional campuses in this new environment with these enrollment pressures that all types of institutions are facing?” Mitchell said.

Craig Cornell, senior vice provost for Strategic Enrollment Management, said regional campuses are important to the overall picture of OU’s enrollment.

“The real growth has been part of our strategy of OHIO for Ohio that has allowed for multiple means by which a student can be a student at Ohio University,” Cornell said in an email.

Though Willan said the growth of the economy is good for main campuses, he inevitably thinks the economy will go through another downturn. In the meantime, officials are working to maintain regional campus enrollments and keep jobs and classes the same as they are now.

“It is certainly a very challenging time for those who work on the regional campuses. They certainly take a lot of pride in where they work,” Mitchell said. “I think it can be very challenging or demoralizing when they see the financial challenges that they're facing and question what it will mean personally. There’s sort of questions of are they going to have a job in the future.”



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