By Mary Alice Casey
Applications for Ohio University?s fall 2009 freshman class are running just behind last year?s record pace, an encouraging sign in such uncertain economic times, university officials say.
With a little less than two weeks to go before the Feb. 1 deadline for full consideration, prospective students have submitted 11,593 applications. While the total is down a little less than 2 percent from this point last year, when the university had received 11,811 applications, it is up 6.5 percent from two years ago and 14.5 percent from four years ago. By the time the application window closed last year, the university had received a record 14,046.
?Overall, in terms of applications, we?re right where we want to be, especially given the economic situation across the country and in Ohio,? Director of Undergraduate Admissions David Garcia said. ?But we cannot be complacent. We need the entire Ohio University community to be involved in bringing in a strong class.? (See related story at right.)
When considered in terms of the Vision OHIO goals of increasing diversity, transfers and academic quality, this year?s applicant pool indicates the university is making good progress, Vice Provost for Enrollment Management Craig Cornell said.
Although such early statistics provide only a preliminary snapshot, Cornell said the ACT composite score of current applicants is 23.67, up from 23.42 at this time last year; the average high school GPA is 3.32, up from 3.29 last year.
Applications from multicultural students (including international students) stand at 1,597, up more than 6 percent from last year and 123 percent from four years ago. Prospective transfer students have submitted 298 applications, 55 percent more than at this time last year and 64 percent more than four years ago. Out-of-state applications total 1,965, down about one-half of 1 percent from last year, but up more than 25 percent from four years ago.
?These characteristics are important because we are working strategically to build our freshman class every year,? Cornell said. ?How we shape it -- in terms of diversity, quality, in-state vs. out-of-state and other factors -- ties in directly with Vision OHIO goals.?
Garcia said the economic recession coupled with a declining number of high school seniors in Ohio and throughout most of the Midwest and nation pose challenges for universities. But four-year public universities in rural locations, such as Ohio University, face a tougher time than community colleges and big-city public universities that attract students who want to save money by attending schools closer to home.
Statistics from this year?s recruiting cycle bear that out, Garcia said, noting that applications are down about 5 percent from the Cleveland, Cincinnati and Dayton areas and about 12 percent from Toledo.
Barmak Nassirian is associate executive director of external relations for the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, which has members on about 10,000 private and public campuses in the U.S. and at 200 schools overseas. He agrees that more students choose schools in metropolitan areas close to home during tight financial times, and he doesn?t expect that tendency to change during the current recession.
?We are expecting big city publics and community colleges to see increases (in applications),? Nassirian said. ?My expectation is that the public sector in general is going to experience a significant increase.?
He also expects prospective college students to continue to apply to more schools than their predecessors, in large part because they want to find the best deal for their dollar and the best school to help them meet their academic goals.
The current economy, Nassirian said, has created ?the perfect storm when it comes to family financial planning? for college: High unemployment and drops in the stock market are eating into families? college savings, while a tight credit market has reduced the availability of private loans.
That, Garcia said, makes emphasizing Ohio University?s attributes -- including close faculty-student interaction, a strong retention rate and a fourth-in-the-nation graduation performance ranking -- all the more important.
?Those kinds of things make us stand out and demonstrate to students and their parents that Ohio University offers a great value for their investment,? Garcia said.
Casey S. Elliott contributed to this report.
Coming soon: A closer look at the university?s strategic enrollment initiative.