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Community colleges, private universities in NE Ohio see mixed bag with enrollment this fall

Cody York Photography Inc.
Cuyahoga Community College
Students at Cuyahoga Community College's Eastern Campus Student Services Building in Highland Hills. Tri-C recently reported a significant increase in enrollment, up 10% this fall compared to last fall.

Northeast Ohio private universities and colleges, as well as community colleges, are seeing a mixed bag with their enrollment this fall, with some highs and some lows.

In the Cleveland area, both Case Western Reserve University, which is private, and Cuyahoga County Community College , which is public, saw increases in enrollment this year. Tri-C saw what's likely the largest increase of any college or university in the region, with more than 1,650 new students, up 10% to 17,407 students. Case Western Reserve saw a smaller increase, about 60 students, up to 12,266 students.

Tri-C also saw an increase in enrollment last fall as well. Anthony Moujaes, a spokesperson for Tri-C, said there are multiple factors at play.

“Those include an increase in dual-enrollment populations (high school students attending college classes in high school) and new high school students, new financial opportunities to help returning students resolve debt, and a simplified enrollment process,” he wrote in an email.

In terms of other positive enrollment trends, Baldwin Wallace University’s total enrollment was up about 3% to 3,327 student, with its largest first-year class since 2015. A spokesperson for the university which is private noted that while enrollment overall is down long-term since 2019 (when it had 3,514 students), Baldwin Wallace’s undergraduate enrollment has been stable or otherwise ticking upward in recent years, as graduate and part-time student numbers decline.

Ashland University, another private institution, also had a larger freshman class this fall than last fall – 508 compared to 466 – but overall its enrollment is down by about 200 student, at 6,200 total students this year. A spokesperson said Ashland University’s overall enrollment fluctuates year-to-year due to its correctional education program for people in prisons and jails In general, though enrollment is down significantly since 2020 when Ashland had 7,964 students.

Enrollment at Oberlin College, a private college, is down slightly by about 30 students at 2,959, but is up by about 100 students compared to 2021, according to a spokesperson.

More broadly, enrollment at public and private colleges has declined significantly since all-time highs across the country in 2010 and 2011, a trend that worsened during the pandemic, with enrollment declines just beginning to level off this year. Community colleges have similarly seen significant declines in enrollment, although dual-enrolled students who take college classes in high school have helped boost those numbers in recent years, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Lorain County Community College saw a 4.5% increase in its total enrollment this fall compared to last fall, up to 9,473 students, although that’s still down compared to where it was in 2019 with 10,278 students.

“Like most community colleges, LCCC’s enrollment typically fluctuates with economic conditions, with higher enrollment during more challenging economic times,” spokesperson Kimberly Carrasquillo said. “This is especially true for adults enrolling in higher education who may be seeking to retrain for a new career.”

Stark State Community College, meanwhile, saw a dip in enrollment this year, down about 400 students this fall (9,653 students) and down about 1,000 students since fall 2021. While the total number of students has declined, Stark State has seen some areas of growth, including what spokesperson Robyn Steinmetz called “noncredit enrollment,” where students take single classes that don’t give them credit toward a degree but do teach them skills for a job they might need.

Conor Morris is the education reporter for Ideastream Public Media.