A preliminary report released by the Ohio Board of Regents Monday shows that enrollment has dropped 5.9 percent since last year. The decline of more than 31,000 students at the state's 61 public universities and colleges was expected — but it still hurt some financially and forced the layoff of 23 people at one community college.
The Dayton Daily News reports that the enrollment decline is attributed to a record number of students graduating last year ahead of the semester conversion at 17 institutions. Also to blame are changes to federal financial aid that mean fewer students are eligible, and an economy that has some choosing to go to work instead of school.
It's the second consecutive year enrollment has dipped.
The Ohio Board of Regents 15-day headcount shows that enrollment at university main campuses is down about 1 percent from 2011. It's down 4.24 percent at university regional campuses, and 13 percent at the state's community colleges.
"After several consecutive years of robust gains in enrollment for many area colleges and universities, this type of leveling off is to be expected, especially as the economy improves and students put their degrees and training to work," said Sean Creighton, executive director for the Southwestern Ohio Council for Higher Education.
A total of 507,425 students are enrolled in college in Ohio this fall, according to the report. That includes 280,728 on main campuses, 49,737 at regional campuses and 176,960 at community colleges.
"There are a number of factors which could contribute to the enrollment decline in some of the colleges and universities including semester conversion which caused students to rush to complete their coursework last year," Board of Regents spokeswoman Kim Norris told the newspaper. "Also, some community college enrollment is trending down after several years of record enrollment when the economy was at its lowest point."
A 22-percent decline in enrollment — and drop in revenue from tuition — forced Hocking College in Nelsonville to lay off 23 people as of Nov. 2, reduce the contracts of four others and leave three positions unfilled to deal with a $4.3 million budget deficit. Students upset at some of the cuts staged a demonstration at the college Monday.