Freshmen retention up as total enrollment declines

Undergraduate enrollment decreased from last spring to this spring, but graduate enrollment and freshman retention are up.

The undergraduate decrease outweighs the graduate increase, so the total effect is a decrease of 349 students, according to numbers provided by the Office of Institutional Research.

Main campus undergraduate enrollment is down 213 students, and Firelands undergraduate decreased by 158 students. Meanwhile, graduate enrollment increased by 22 students.

Altogether, at both levels and both campuses, there are 17,561 students this year, a 1.9 percent decrease from last year’s total of 17,910.

Despite the overall undergraduate decrease, the University retained more freshmen from fall to spring than it has in the past, said Joe Frizado, vice provost for academic operations.

“When you start hundreds of students smaller, you’re going to end up hundreds of students smaller,” Frizado said.

The University retained 92.9 percent of first-time full-time freshman. That’s about a percent and a half more than the same group’s retention rate last year, Frizado said.

Higher freshman retention can be attributed in part to the caliber of freshman being recruited.

“The last two freshman classes came in very well-prepared academically,” Frizado said. “The incoming class that right now we’re recruiting is at the same level as the last two.”

To increase enrollment, the University is looking at partnerships with other universities, such as the cooperating with the Univeristy of Toledo on the aviation program. The University has also frozen tuition and tried to better prepare graudates for careers through co-op and internship programs, Frizado said.

The University has also tried to attract student with new and renovated buildings, but has tried to do so in a financially responsible manner, said Dave Kielmeyer, University spokesman.

The University has worked with private partners to pay for new residence halls, dining halls and the Falcon Health Center, Kielmeyer said.

“We built those bells and whistles, but we did it strategically, kept debt off our books,” Kielmeyer said.

However, much of the $60 million recently approved by the Board of Trustees for new construction will be debt.

It’s difficult to be sure how much renovations and other factors affect retention, since there are so many factors in play, Frizado said. Not all of the factors are academic; a student may be homesick, or their financial situation may change.

Linked courses, however, have shown to be helpful. Having multiple classes with the same students builds community more quickly, Frizado said.