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Ohio Public Colleges Make Aggressive Changes After Enrollment Dips

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Enrollment at Ohio’s public colleges and universities has fallen for the second year in a row amid state and federal efforts emphasizing graduation rates over student totals.

As a result, more schools are laying off employees, freezing travel and reviewing academic programs after enrollment declines and funding reductions, The Columbus Dispatch reported Sunday.

That includes the University of Akron, where trustees agreed last week to cut an additional $12 million from its budget, lay off 18 staff members and not renew one professor’s contract and those of nine others. The university’s enrollment fell 6 percent this fall.

Shawnee State and Youngstown State universities have also announced recent cuts.

Statewide enrollment figures show the number of students in college in Ohio rose rapidly after the 2007 financial crisis then dropped almost 6 percent in 2012 and another 2 percent this year, the newspaper reported.

Campus officials cite fewer high school graduates, records numbers of students pushing to graduate before schools moved to semesters, changes in federal financial aid and more Ohioans going straight into the workforce.

“I like to think of it as a leveling off after some really steep growth,” said Karen Rafinski, interim president of the Ohio Association of Community Colleges.

Ohio University and Ohio State University are among those that have bucked the trend with respective enrollment gains of 4 percent and 2 percent. Officials cite active marketing, the schools’ growing reputations and efforts to keep costs down.

Both schools also are recruiting more out-of-state, international and transfer students and are expanding their online offerings and in-demand programs.

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