Area college, university enrollment numbers released

By Jennifer Peryam -

Grace Zickafoose, a first-year student from Lima, moves into her residence at Bluffton University. She is part of the 250-member incoming class.

Grace Zickafoose, a first-year student from Lima, moves into her residence at Bluffton University. She is part of the 250-member incoming class.

Courtesy of Bluffton University

BLUFFTON — Area college and university enrollment numbers have been released, with one college reporting record enrollment.

Bluffton University has enrolled its highest number of first-year students since 2013-‘14. The first-year class of 250 also has an average GPA of 3.26 and the average ACT score of 21.

“Bluffton is thrilled to enroll our largest class in six years and to have the largest number of international students on campus since 2003,” said Robin Bowlus, vice president for enrollment management and marketing. “It is an exciting time on campus and a true joy to walk alongside our students as they prepare for their life and vocation.”

Twenty-five percent of students in the first-year class are considered underrepresented, an increase from 19 percent the previous year. The first-year cohort also includes seven international students for a total of 25 international students on campus.

Nineteen transfer students are enrolled this fall, coming from five states — Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio.

“Bluffton’s alumni and friends are the top influencers for students coming to Bluffton,” said Bowlus. “Their passion and excitement for their Bluffton experience is helping Bluffton’s story reach students who are looking for a university that will help them discover their greater purpose.”

Located on a 65-acre residential campus, Bluffton offers more than 80 majors, minors and interdisciplinary programs for undergraduate students, including nationally accredited programs in dietetics, education, music and social work.

Opportunities for working adults include accounting, organizational management and RN to BSN degree-completion programs and graduate programs in business administration, education and organizational management.

The school was founded in 1899 and is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Ninety-eight percent of Bluffton alumni are employed or in graduate school or long-term service within six months of graduation.

At The Ohio State University-Lima, enrollment is slightly down.

Total enrollment for fall semester is 982 at OSU-Lima. Enrollment in last year’s fall semester was 1,010.

“Ohio State Lima is committed to developing bright, talented students into strong, service-oriented graduates. Retention efforts across the university are aimed at building the skills and versatility that our students and communities need for a successful, 21st century workforce,” said Kristina Healy, director of enrollment services at OSU-Lima.

“With every internship, every student teaching assignment, every community service opportunity, our students are building ties to the area. We are particularly excited about the new ‘Each One, Teaches One’ peer-mentoring program that has doubled in size from its pilot year to this.”

At Ohio Northern University, enrollment is stable and comparable to previous years, according to Jack Jeffery, Ohio Northern University associate director for media relations.

The preliminary census indicates total enrollment of 2,958 students for fall semester, which is just down from 3,039 students enrolled in the fall of 2018.

Further, first-time freshman enrollment is 608 students. Retention of first-year to second-year students is at 85 percent.

The academic preparation of the entering class of students remains strong with an average high school GPA of 3.5 and an ACT score of 25. They come from Ohio and 24 other states.

In all, 94 percent of ONU’s 2018 graduates were employed or attending graduate school within six months of graduation, which is a testament to the relevancy of the university’s educational experience, Jeffery said.

Further, several ranking services again rate ONU as among the best universities for offering an exceptional educational experience.

For example, the 2020 U.S. News Best College rankings list ONU as fifth-best regional college in the midwest. This is the fourth straight year the university has been ranked in the top six institutions in this category. These colleges and universities focus on the undergraduate experience and offer a broad range of programs in the liberal arts and professional fields.

For the second straight year, the service rates Ohio Northern third in the Midwest among regional colleges for best value. Additionally, ONU is included in the “A+ school for B students” category, which focuses on universities where students who work had find an environment where they can thrive.

Also, the service rates ONU 30th among regional colleges that promote social mobility. This measures schools’ success at supporting students from low-income families in achieving equity with students from families with stronger financial backgrounds and includes graduation rates.

Additionally, U.S. News ranks Ohio Northern’s T.J. Smull College of Engineering 32nd nationally among engineering programs that offer a bachelor’s or master’s degree as the highest degree. This marks the 12th time in the last 13 years that ONU’s College of Engineering has been ranked as a top-50 program. The College of Engineering is poised for more success with the new James Lehr Kennedy Engineering Building opening this fall.

At Rhodes State College, enrollment is down from last year.

Rhodes State College’s enrollment is currently 3,670, compared to 3,982 in fall 2018. However, according to Dr. Rose Reinhart, vice president for student affairs, “Fall enrollments are not yet final.” She noted, “We have a second eight-week fall term that begins on October 16th and College Credit Plus registrations yet to add.”

New transfer student enrollments have gone up by almost 3% for fall, along with a 6% increase in students who had stopped out and are returning.

“These numbers are important for us,” said Dr. Cynthia E. Spiers, interim president, “because enrollments trending up in these areas is generally an indicator that overall enrollments will begin to trend up as well.”

Spiers also noted, “One of the most widely accepted reasons behind the 11% national community college enrollment decline, which began in 2012, is an improving economy. Individuals are opting to go into the workforce rather than to college.”

“This is troubling,” said Spiers, who recognizes that workforce needs are changing. “Industries are already seeking individuals with advanced skillsets for their in-demand jobs, and we need to help educate and train new individuals to meet that demand.”

Rhodes State is adapting its education and training delivery to better serve the employed and new students through offering more apprenticeship and industry-related programs.

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The University of Northwestern Ohio is still compiling its numbers.

It has 10 different start dates throughout the year, according to Stephanie Malloy, UNOH vice president of marketing and public relations. The college has yet to complete its fall enrollment process as it still has a new set of students scheduled to begin Sept. 30. The university will not have an accurate picture of fall enrollment until Oct. 4 at the earliest.

Grace Zickafoose, a first-year student from Lima, moves into her residence at Bluffton University. She is part of the 250-member incoming class. Zickafoose, a first-year student from Lima, moves into her residence at Bluffton University. She is part of the 250-member incoming class. Courtesy of Bluffton University

By Jennifer Peryam

Reach Jennifer Peryam at 567-242-0362.

Reach Jennifer Peryam at 567-242-0362.

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