Correction Appended.

Ohio University’s spring semester enrollment is lower than last year, which shows a slight downward trend in enrollment over the past two years.

OU’s overall enrollment in the Spring Semester 2019 was 32,965. That is a drop from the two previous spring enrollments being 2018, which was 34,341, and 2017, which was 35,075, according to OU’s website.

“There are market conditions that have everything to do with what’s changing outside of Ohio University, not the quality of our education,” Robin Oliver, vice president of university communications and marketing, said.

The university saw an increase in enrollment in the years leading up to 2017, with many of the fall enrollment reaching record high numbers. Oliver said that could have been because the Ohio Guarantee was instituted in the fall 2015.

The guarantee was a leading initiative among public universities at the time, but it is no longer a strategic advantage, Oliver said. The purpose of the Ohio Guarantee was to ensure that students’ tuition and fees wouldn’t increase over the duration of their education at OU. 

Another explanation for the dip in enrollment is that there are fewer people graduating high school in the Midwest. That is a large-scale trend that is not necessarily an institutional problem, Oliver said.

However, while total enrollment has dropped, the university’s retention and graduation rates are higher than anticipated, Oliver said.

OU’s four-year graduation rate for first-time full-time freshmen hit 51.1%, Oliver said. That number breaks the old record of 50.8% from 2002.

“OU has a huge tradition of academic success and excellence as one of the oldest public universities in the country,” Oliver said. “We recognize that we are in a more competitive landscape and that we have to do a better job of telling our university's story beyond our walls.” 

OU President Duane Nellis developed a number of initiatives to combat the recent drop in enrollment. One of those initiatives is the Ohio Honors Program. This program was initially instituted as a pilot program before it was adopted in the fall of 2018 following successful results. 

The Ohio Honors Program was developed as a way to expand the reach of the Honors Tutorial College and attract a greater number of high school graduates.

“The new OHIO Honors Program seeks to become a premier Honors education nationwide that has an emphasis on experiential learning, whether this be through creative/research engagement or experiences in leadership or community service,” Donal Skinner, dean of the Honors Tutorial College, said in an email.

UCM is also in the process of building a digital team and bringing in strategists to focus on improving the university's online presence.

“We’ve been interviewing our successful students to market our university and we’ve been trying to determine what types of stories connect with our prospective audiences,” Oliver said. 

UCM has been working with the student body to identify the best way to reach high school graduates and their parents by creating memorable content for the website. Some of that content involves video interviews with successful students about some of their experiences at OU.

“We recognize that we have challenges and we have to be proactive in addressing those challenges,” said Oliver. 


A previous version of this report incorrectly stated who started the Ohio Honors Program. The article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information.