(Ashland, Ore.) — Official fall term enrollment figures released by the state this week paint Southern Oregon University as an institution on the rise and an exception among universities nationwide.
SOU posted gains in both the number of full-time equivalent students and actual headcount of students this fall, compared to fall term of 2016. Figures on full-time equivalent students are considered the most critical, because they indicate enrollment in terms of the credit hours and tuition revenue generated by students.
SOU’s full-time equivalent enrollment increased by just over two percent this fall, to 4,383 students – 90 more than a year ago. The university’s actual headcount – the total number of full- and part-time students enrolled – rose by just under 1 percent, to 6,139. That represents an increase of 51 students.
“These enrollment figures are a reflection of the upward trajectory SOU is experiencing,” said Linda Schott, the university’s president. “The trend across the country is for declining college enrollment. We are focused on preparing our students for a changing future, and on providing the knowledge and skills that will help them succeed.
“We are seeing increases this fall in the number of new, first-year students, retention of last year’s first-year students and overall retention of returning students. That indicates our efforts to attract students and provide the services they need are producing results.”
SOU has increased its institutional aid budget – financial aid for students who are the least able to afford higher education costs – to $4 million, from the $3.5 million that was budgeted previously. The university has also focused on its student success programs and expanded efforts to steer eligible students toward cost-saving options such as those that enable students to attain a college degree in three years.
“Our enrollment increase is due in large part to the strategic directions we put into place a couple years ago, regarding recruitment and retention,” SOU Provost Susan Walsh said. “We created several programs and initiatives that are intended to appeal to resident and nontraditional students. I really credit our enrollment and admissions team for the good work they’ve done.”
Data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center showed that college enrollment across the U.S. fell by 1.4 percent in 2016, continuing a slide that began four years earlier. The nonprofit research center projected earlier this year that the nationwide enrollment decline would continue in 2017.
Total enrollment at Oregon’s seven public universities declined this year by six-tenths of 1 percent in full-time equivalent students and increased by less than one-tenth of 1 percent in total headcount of full- and part-time students.
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