Ohio University has been facing a pattern of declining transfer rates as well as a lower number of freshmen admitted.
President Duane Nellis expressed this concern at the most recent Faculty Senate meeting. As a result of these lower numbers, the university has faced lower revenue and is looking into downsizing departments to make up the difference.
“Many community colleges statewide are seeing lower enrollments, as their growth often runs counter-cyclical to economic growth,” Candace Boeninger, interim vice provost for enrollment management, said in an email. “Most four-year institutions — including Ohio University — are working really hard to ensure the retention and success of students they’ve enrolled, which is positive for students, of course, but also can reduce the number of students who transfer.”
The number of transfer students in fall 2017 was 461 while that number has dropped to 346 this year, according to Boeninger.
“At OHIO, we work really hard to be transfer-friendly, especially around the development of articulation agreements, general education guides, and transfer advising,” Boeninger said in an email. “Sometimes, the actual transfer move happens after a great deal of planning while the student is enrolled at a sending institution, so these services remain in place and available for those students who are planning a transfer pathway to the University.”
Similar to undergraduate admissions, transfer students can apply through the Common Application and will be assessed on their transcripts from previous institutions, Boeninger said.
“If we are able to offer admission under our general or selective admission guidelines, we do, and we help usher the student toward orientation and registration,” she said in an email. “On all of OHIO’s campuses, we admit transfer students for all terms, including summer.”
Boeninger said the goal is to educate students, no matter where they’re coming from.
“We are committed to doing our part in helping students in Ohio and beyond attain an undergraduate degree, so we are always pleased when students choose OHIO as the place where they will finish strong,” she said in an email.
While some may think a lower number of transfer students, as well as undergraduate students, may overall indicate an admissions process that is becoming more difficult, this is not necessarily the case. Boeninger said the lower numbers may deal with the guidelines of programs.
“Some academic programs have more stringent guidelines than general University admission due, for example, to accreditation guidelines or high demand, but among Ohio public institutions there is broad commitment to a strong transfer ecosystem that depends upon ease of transfer and the acceptance of credit,” Boeninger said in an email. “We are committed to supporting that ecosystem and to welcoming transfer students.”
The university said a total of 19,856 students are enrolled at the Athens campus, including graduate and medical students, according to a press release. That is a decline from numbers in August 2018, which was 24,155.
“I guess maybe that could reflect badly on people who are considering coming here if they see that less people are coming,” Akira Fisher, a freshman studying integrated media, said. “That might make them think, ‘Oh, maybe there’s something wrong’ even if there isn’t.”
The number of freshmen enrolled has also declined. This year, a total of 3,671 freshmen were enrolled compared to the 4,045 first-year August 2018 numbers.
“(More students) would be able to have good programs and put more money towards better programs, and they know that people will actually utilize them,” Fisher said.
President Nellis said a consequence for declining numbers means a drop in revenue. However, in the same press release, the university claimed that the current group of freshmen was the highest achieving group ever.
“The fall freshman class had an average GPA of 3.55 on a 4.0 scale,” according to an OU press release. “Also, 20.3 percent of the students came from the top 10 percent of their class, up from 17.6 percent last year.”
Furthermore, there is a small dip in students who are staying at the university for four years, which also affects revenue.
“Ohio University has maintained four-year retention rates between 66 and 69% since 2010 and has a record-high 81.5% retention rate for second-year students in the Fall of 2019,” Jim Sabin, a university spokesperson, said in an email. “While we have seen a slight increase in the three-year graduation rate, it is a very small population.”