ZANESVILLE, Ohio (Sept. 30, 2003) -- What in the world is going on at Ohio University-Zanesville?
Anyone driving State Route 146 past the university will surely notice there is more traffic than ever, more cars looking for a parking space close to Elson Hall, and of course, those modular units on the lawn near the east entrance.
Each September for the past several years, officials at Ohio University-Zanesville have been pleased to report the growing enrollment numbers for the new academic year.
"The first year we saw our enrollment growing, we were very careful in how we worded the information," said Zanesville Campus Dean James Fonseca. "There are two different ways to count our students, and back in 2000 we had broken our previous record in only one of those ways."
Fonseca refers to "headcount," the number of students actually attending the university, and to "full-time equivalent (FTE) students", a number that takes into account the total number of hours these students are taking to calculate the equivalent number of full-time students. The FTE is the number the state uses to determine an institution's subsidy.
This fall, there are 1,703 students attending Ohio University - Zanesville, more than 100 students from last year's record-breaking year. The number of FTE students, 1,410, is up more than 130 from last year's record.
Fonseca commented, "Last year, the Ohio Board of Regents named our campus as the fastest growing in the entire state. This year we anticipate being among the top three fastest growing again. We are thrilled, but at the same time we are keenly aware that means we are serving more students with a minimal increase in funding."
In the past year, budget cuts at the state level have had an impact on institutions of higher education throughout the state regardless of the growth in enrollment.
But, students being students, the first comment an Ohio University-Zanesville student will have about the increase in enrollment is probably about parking and traffic.
"There are so many students at the Zanesville Campus, I had to park at the Eastern campus in St. Clairsville and take the Z-bus in," quipped one returning student.
Community members are more concerned about the modular units that appeared on the east lawn over the summer. To those who live in Southeastern Ohio, these units are common sites at grade schools and high schools, but at the university?
"What do those modular classrooms symbolize? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," commented Fonseca.
The sections of classes offered have increased because of the demand, but the amount of physical space available at the university has not increased. The temporary solution became the modular classrooms.
Wandell and Shnell, an architecture firm, has been hired to plan a permanent addition to Elson Hall to alleviate the space restrictions, though this also means other planned improvements will be put on hold.
"After renovating the first floor of Elson Hall, our intentions were to save up our capital funds to renovate the second floor. The second floor will be more costly because of the science and nursing labs and the electronic media studios," explained Fonseca.
Renovation funding comes directly to the campus from the state in an annual capital appropriation bill. With the amount Ohio University - Zanesville gets, historically about $500,000 per year, it would take several years to accrue enough for either of these projects.
"To either renovate the second floor or expand Elson Hall to accommodate our current growth, we will most likely ask the community for assistance," added Fonseca. "We have an on-going capital campaign and it would be wonderful if the community once again helped us expand the campus."
In addition to the space for the classes, there is also the issue of spaces in the classes. Area students who attend other universities often take a class at the Zanesville Campus over the summer, but with record enrollment this past summer, that was simply not an option.
Director of Student Services Monica Jones explained, "I had several students who always enroll for one or two classes during summer ask why in the world all the summer classes were full. I had to explain that those classes had been filled since April, before they were even thinking about summer break."
Additionally, students who qualify as a Scholastic Fellow, allowing them to take college classes will still attending high school, have had the same problem in finding open seats in classes.
"For a month before classes started, the first thing I would do every morning was to look online to see if there were any new classes open in which I could enroll new students," Jones said.
Ask anyone at Ohio University-Zanesville how they have achieved this success and most will offer up a few suggestions before admitting they're just guessing. Increased scholarship opportunities, the uncertain economy, a larger proportion of local high school graduates going to college, and a shift in the public thinking of the Zanesville Campus as Ohio University, and not simply the "branch campus," are certainly all contributing factors.
But Fonseca also has other ideas. "We have been doing a much better job lately at reminding people that Ohio University is in their backyard. In the past few years, we have hired several new professors whose energy and enthusiasm complement our veteran faculty members. All in all, we have a dynamic group of individuals who believe in the value of an education at Ohio University - Zanesville. Students pick up on this attitude and they really enjoy coming here. More and more we are enrolling students who think of Ohio University - Zanesville as their first choice."
Fonseca, who has been at the Zanesville Campus five years, recalls being told in the beginning that Zanesville was not an ideal location to compete for students and that the Zanesville Campus was already as big as it would ever get.
"With our proximity to Columbus and to other institutions in southeastern and central Ohio, residents in our area really have their pick of institutions to attend."
Fortunately for Ohio University, more and more each year are picking Ohio University-Zanesville.
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