Enrollment up at Kent State, University of Akron for first time in years
Kent State University and the University of Akron received some good news this fall. Overall enrollment increased slightly at Akron for the first time in years, and Kent State saw an increase of several hundred students.
Meanwhile, the other two major public universities in the region — Cleveland State and Youngstown State — continued to see overall enrollment declines, according to fall enrollment numbers provided by all four of Northeast Ohio's public four-year universities.
In general, public four-year universities in Northeast Ohio and across the country have seen significant declines in enrollment since the pandemic, although enrollment had been trending downward nationwide in the decade before the COVID-19 outbreak as well.
Enrollment declines across the state could be leveling off, said Sean Broghammer, Kent State’s vice president for enrollment management.
"Most institutions experienced new student enrollment decline in fall 2020. The fall 2020 entering class are now seniors,” he said in a statement. “Naturally, as Kent State has returned to pre-pandemic enrollment of new students the past two years, combined with increased student success in the form of retention, increased interest and growth at the graduate level, we are seeing a stabilization of enrollment and incremental growth as a university."
Broghammer did not want to speculate until he receives more data, but said he anticipates enrollment numbers to flatten or show a slight increase particularly in the college-going rate for traditional students, which he said has been declining for the last number of years as students/families explored other educational and career options.
Kent State saw an increase across its campuses of about 320 students, up to 33,530 students overall. Kent is seeing an increase in its international graduate student numbers, and “the most diverse class in Kent State’s history” as far as its first-year students go, said spokesperson Emily Vincent.
“This is the most diverse class in Kent State’s history with over 20% of new students identifying as an underrepresented student, 33% [are the] first in their family to go to college and just over 34% demonstrate high financial need,” she said.
The University of Akron saw an increase of just four students total, to 14,495 students, but that was still exciting news for President Gary Miller, who told Akron’s Board of Trustees that things are looking up after more than a decade of year-to-year declines. Miller said student retention, undergraduate enrollment and international enrollment are all up significantly.
“New students are here because they are aware of the experiences and opportunities that await them in their university career,” he said.
But other public universities in the region did not see increases in enrollment.
Youngstown State University has about 80 fewer students this fall than it did last fall, with a total of about 10,993 students. While the undergraduate student total dipped by about 430 students, the number of graduate students is up significantly at YSU, from 2,152 last year to 2,501 this year.
Cleveland State University’s enrollment declined by about 400 students from last fall to this fall.
Regardless of the upward and downward trends between this year and last year, all four of northeast Ohio’s public four-year universities’ enrollment is down significantly since fall 2020, with the University of Akron down 3,334 students from fall 2020 to fall 2023, and Kent State down 2,734 students.
Ideastream Public Media will follow up with how area private and community colleges’ enrollment is faring next week.