While first-year student enrollment at Ohio University is down, diversity is at an all-time high, according to data from OU.
There are 34,443 students enrolled at the Athens campus for the Fall Semester 2018, according to an Office of Institutional Research news release. Of that, 3,980 are first-year students, which is down 1.6 percent from last fall’s enrollment.
“Ohio University offers a high-quality education that appeals to students from a wide variety of backgrounds, from Appalachian to international,” Executive Vice President and Provost Chaden Djalali said in a university news release. “That broad diversity is a hallmark of (OU) and further contributes to the transformational education all of our students can expect to receive here.”
The incoming freshman class includes the university’s highest-ever percentage of students from diverse backgrounds, and more than a quarter of the freshmen are first-generation students, according to the news release.
Sydney Walters, a freshman studying journalism, is part of the first-generation student population at OU. Walters considers being a first-generation college student significant.
“It’s an important step in my family. I am the first person in my family that I know of that even went to college, and it’s special to me to be the first one,” Walters said.
Walters said being the first person in her family to attend college has its own set of challenges because she didn’t know what to expect and couldn’t receive tips from her family on how to survive in college.
Despite that, she also feels that so far during her time at OU, she has felt a sense of community.
“They have plenty of opportunities for first-generation students. (OU is) definitely passionate about diversity and having that be a part of the school,” Walters said.
While first-generation students make up 26.9 percent of the incoming fall students, other groups also have a stake in the enrollment pool.
This year, OU has seen an increase in students from under-represented backgrounds, out-of-state students, international students and students from Appalachian counties. About 14 percent of the Class of 2022 is from under-represented backgrounds, which is the highest in the university’s history, according to the news release.
There are 445 fewer transfer students enrolled for Fall Semester on the Athens campus compared to last year.
Kirsten Dilger, a junior studying history, transferred to OU this fall from Sinclair Community College. She, like Walters, has found a sense of community in Athens through student organizations.
“From the first day I came here, it felt like there were a lot of people caring for my well being, and joining clubs and finding my bearings, I can feel that everyone is a family here,” Dilger said.
She joined the transfer ambassadors to give a voice to the transfer students already admitted and to be a voice for some prospective transfer students to give them a glimpse of what it’s like being a transfer student at OU, Dilger said.
With a main campus of nearly 35,000 students, OU could seem intimidating.
Both Walters and Dilger expressed nervousness about starting their academic career in Athens this fall, however, after only four weeks into the academic year, Dilger plans to re-enroll for next fall.
“It’s not as hard as I thought it would be. You’re not really segregated for being transfer students,” Dilger said. “ I thought I’ll never make friends, because everyone is a first year student that came from high school. Everyone has welcomed me with open arms, it’s nice here.”
Correction: A previous version of this report misspelled Kirsten Dilger’s name. The article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information.