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Bucking the trend

Alissa Widman Neese • Sep 27, 2013 at 1:00 PM

BGSU Firelands enrollment increased this month for the first time in three years, according to data the college provided the Register this week.

This fall, 2,443 students enrolled at BGSU Firelands, a 2 percent increase from the 2,399 who enrolled in fall 2012.

The growth goes against a national trend, as enrollment at most community-based colleges decreased this year. Locally, both Terra State Community College and Lorain County Community College, the nearest competitors of BGSU Firelands, saw a decline in student numbers this fall.

Typically, community college enrollment is inversely proportional to the U.S. economy — when the economy is doing well or improving, enrollment declines, said Dean Schnurr, BGSU Firelands spokesman.    “When the economy is bad and unemployment is high, often people will enroll in a regional college to retool themselves and possibly pursue a degree in a different line of business,” Schnurr said. “Fortunately, we’re still seeing inclining enrollment, while many colleges aren’t because the economy is picking up.”

BGSU Firelands followed the typical trend in 2012, when enrollment dropped by 0.05 percent, to 2,399 students, compared to the 2,412 students enrolled in 2011.

Data before 2011 is skewed because Bowling Green State University’s main campus changed the definition of “campus” in 2010, Schnurr said. Many students attending classes at BGSU Firelands were no longer counted as students at the Huron Township campus because they could not complete their majors there.

As a result, the data depicts a 105-student decline between 2010 and 2011, even though the actual number of students at the BGSU Firelands campus likely increased, Schnurr said.

“We have many students who are enrolled in programs here that are offered through main campus,” he said. “Previously, since they were physically here, they counted as being one of our students. They’re now considered main campus students because the university changed its counting structure in 2010.”

Bill Balzer, BGSU Firelands dean, attributed the enrollment jump to the school’s dedicated staff and its consistently growing course catalog, which includes evening and online classes.

The enrollment growth will benefit the local community by boosting the number of working college graduates in the area, Balzer said.

"We continue to make sure the courses and degrees we offer are those that meet the needs of the students and employers in our area,” he said. “We’re pleased our numbers are moving in the right direction again and we can continue our commitment to serving our community.”

Freshman Kylie Neer, a 2013 Sandusky High graduate, said she suspects enrollment increased because of the affordability, accessibility and variety of programs at BGSU Firelands.

Neer is currently undecided on a major, but BGSU Firelands offers classes to help her navigate her options, such as the career planning class she’s taking this semester.

“A lot of people from my class went (to BGSU Firelands) this year,” Neer said. “It’s cheaper, close to home and people who don’t want to go off somewhere else can stay with their families while they make choices about what to do next.”

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