Enrollment at Kent State Keeps Rising
Summer session increase comes as university closes admissions for fall 2011
If recent enrollment increases at Kent State University were illustrated on a line graph, the steep curve might resemble a silhouette of the Rocky Mountains.
In the past decade, Kent State has seen the number of new students coming to campus generally increase every year over the past year, with the exception of 2005 to 2006, like clockwork. Indeed, since 2000 enrollment at Kent State has risen every year with the noted exception through 2010 and into 2011, according to figures filed with the Ohio Board of Regents.
And Kent State can add the summer of 2011 to that list.
Numbers for the 2011 summer session showed a 6.57 percent increase in summer enrollment across all eight campuses.
With the increases in students, enrollment records have fallen repeatedly in recent years.
In spring 2011, Kent State set an all-time high for spring enrollment at 39,936. That number compares with 38,196 in spring 2010 — the previous record for spring enrollment.
In the fall, the university set an all-time high for total enrollment at 41,365 across all eight campuses. For this fall, the university closed admissions because more than 18,000 people applied, almost guaranteeing a record freshman class of more than 4,000. The previous record for the freshman class was set in 2009 with 4,030.
Wayne Schneider, director of research, planning and institutional effectiveness at Kent State, said they can't point to just one cause for the continued growth in enrollment.
"The increase is due to improved retention and persistence, additional transfer students, more international students and also the economy," Schneider said. "The retention and persistence increases are due to increased student success efforts in a multitude of areas: the residence halls; additional tutoring; peer mentoring; living/learning communities and a large dose of president and provost attention."
Kent State President Lester Lefton previously said simply "we’re seeing the fruits of our labor. A host of factors contribute to this, including this past year’s marketing campaign, our focused and strategic recruitment and outreach efforts, and the awarding of more financial aid."
The economy, though, may be one of the biggest contributing factors.
Mike Nelson, chair of the department of economics at the University of Akron, said, like Kent State, Akron has seen a large increase in the student population in the past 10 years.
"In the last two or three years, the state of the economy has a lot of influence on that, without a doubt," Nelson said. "I’m sure that’s not the only thing.
"Another factor that also comes into play, I think to some extent ... is that public universities tend to be cheaper than private universities," Nelson said. "So when the economy is not as strong there may be some substitution taking place there as well from a more expensive private to a relatively cheaper public institution."
But, Nelson is quick to point out the growing college population is not just happening in Kent and Akron.
"This is a statewide phenomena," he said.
From 2000 to 2009, Ohio's 14 public universities saw a total enrollment increase of 25 percent, according to the Ohio Board of Regents. From 2008 to 2009 alone the University System of Ohio saw an 8 percent increase.
Whether that trend will continue remains to be seen.
Schneider said he wouldn't venture a guess on future enrollment numbers.
"The economy I think is just starting to stabilize now, so it probably is more relevant to what will happen going forward here, whether there will be large increases in the fall and going forward," Nelson said.