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October 6, 2006 :: State Colleges Still Seeing High Enrollment Numbers Despite Slight Drop

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Enrollment at Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities is slightly lower this fall than in 2005 but is still higher than in previous years, according to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.

Figures released by the State Regents in their Fall 2006 Preliminary Enrollment Report for Oklahoma Higher Education show that total headcount is down 1.5 percent compared to the same time last year. A total of 178,678 students have enrolled in classes this fall, 2,650 fewer than in 2005.

Despite the most recent figures, enrollment throughout the state system has seen significant increases. Since fall 2000, nearly 16,500 more students have enrolled in Oklahoma public colleges and universities, a 10.2 percent increase.

“College enrollment tends to flatten or decrease during periods of economic upturns,” Interim Chancellor Phil Moss said. “Oklahoma’s economy has certainly improved, especially in the oil and gas industry.”

Moss also cited smaller high school classes, fewer high school graduates and military deployments as other possible reasons for the enrollment numbers.

The preliminary enrollment report reveals that just one or two percentage points separate the three tiers within the state system when comparing total headcount this fall to last fall. The research universities of Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, and the University of Oklahoma, Norman, have experienced the biggest decrease, 1.6 percent, followed by the regional universities at 1.5 percent and community colleges at 1.3 percent.

Three of the 11 regional universities are seeing increases in total headcount for fall 2006. Headcounts at both Rogers State University, Claremore, and the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, Chickasha, increased by 4 percent, while Southwestern Oklahoma State University, Weatherford, has a 1.1 percent increase.

Of the 12 community colleges in the state, only three show improvement in headcount from fall 2005 to fall 2006. Eastern Oklahoma State College, Wilburton, leads the group with an 8.2 percent increase, followed by Connors State College, Warner, at 0.8 percent and Seminole State College at 0.3 percent.

The report shows the top five institutions in total headcount this fall are OU, 25,521 students; OSU, 22,999 students; Tulsa Community College, 16,664 students; University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, 15,723 students; and Oklahoma City Community College, 12,440 students.

As a whole, state system colleges and universities have 1.9 percent fewer first-time freshmen on campus this fall compared to last fall, according to the report. However, a handful of Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities are seeing increases in their first-time freshman numbers.

Carl Albert State College, Poteau, has seen the biggest jump among all schools in first-time freshman enrollment – 475 students – which represents a lofty 69.3 percent increase. Oklahoma Panhandle State University, Goodwell, and East Central University, Ada, are the only other institutions that have seen double-digit increases in first-time freshman enrollment compared to last fall. OPSU has a sizable 23.2 percent increase, while ECU’s first-time freshman enrollment has improved 11.7 percent.

Colleges and universities across the state also report a slight decrease in full-time equivalent (FTE) enrollment, meaning the number of credit hours that equal a full-time student. The fall semester FTE at public institutions has dropped 1.0 percent compared to 2005.