By Joseph Pratt
Shawnee State University (SSU) recently released its 15-Day Enrollment Report, which indicated an 8.3 percent drop in enrollment since last fall. This change reflects a decrease in both the numbers of students recruited and retained, and the university now projects a $1.5 million deficit based on declining enrollment.
This number comes right after last year’s drop in freshman enrollment by 13 percent and an entire drop in enrollment of 1.8 percent. Last fall, Shawnee attributed the drop to a new practice that requires all incoming students to have ACT test scores to register for classes.
A few different issues are being attributed to the drop this fall, mostly a change in Ohio demographics.
“We saw a decrease in both the number of students recruited to Shawnee State this fall and the number of students who stayed with us term to term,” Shawnee State University President Dr. Rick Kurtz said. “Changing demographics in the state, where we attract more than 85 percent of our students, as well as changing needs of our student population and an improved economy, have made recruitment and retention more of a challenge. It’s a challenge we plan to meet.”
Kurtz explained that SSU is projecting a $1.5 million deficit based on enrollment. He claimed Shawnee has been working hard over the years to reduce cost and maximize efficiencies throughout the campus and will continue to do so. They will be utilizing reserve funds to be able to implement strategies that will enhance enrollment next year and into the future.
“We are taking an in-depth look at everything — who we attract, what our students are looking for from their college experience, enrollment goals based on our market, utilization of our campus facilities, academic programs with opportunities for growth, those that are in high demand, and how we can most efficiently deliver programs and services,” Kurtz said.
Kurtz and the Shawnee State University Board of Trustees began working on a strategic plan prior to the drop in enrollment, but the issue is being included in all future planning.
“We have begun a strategic planning process. While prompted by more than the current enrollment data, this process is vital in our ability to strategically identify where we need to be as far as the optimal number of students we want and need at Shawnee State, and how we plan to not only meet our goals, but sustain them,” Kurtz said. “This type of process takes time. To make more of an immediate impact on next fall’s expected enrollment, we have a number of efforts underway in the areas of recruitment, marketing, student retention, and outreach.
In the short-term, Shawnee will be reviewing and enhancing strategies that will impact next fall’s class. An Enrollment and Student Services team has been formed, as part of strategic planning, to review data and develop recommendations that are being implemented now in the areas of recruitment, marketing, student retention, and outreach to ensure sustained growth in enrollment in the future.
Reach Joseph Pratt at 740-353-3101, ext. 1932, or by Twitter @JosephPratt03.