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Ohio colleges see enrollment drop

– Universities in Ohio are changing how they recruit students and rethinking their approaches amid predictions that the number of public high school graduates in the state will continue to drop over the next decade.

Ohio’s public colleges and universities posted an enrollment drop of 6 percent last fall, and numbers at independent, nonprofit colleges were down for the first time in 25 years.

The biggest concern is over population shifts that will leave Ohio with fewer high school graduates.

The U.S. Department of Education estimates that the number of public high school graduates in Ohio will decrease by about 18 percent between 2008 and 2021. The Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education predicts the drop will be 9 percent.

“The decline is clearly going to have an impact,” said C. Todd Jones, president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Ohio, which promotes private institutions. “The question is, ‘How severe will that decline be?’ ”

Colleges will be forced to recruit student with more targeted messages, the Akron Beacon Journal reported.

The University of Akron is working with northeast Ohio high schools to improve the number of college-ready students. The school also is planning a new internship program beginning this spring for 250 undergraduates.

One goal is to find jobs for 80 percent of graduates within six months of graduation, Provost Mike Sherman said.

“We’re going to have to be competitive and do some things differently,” he said. “We’re going to be part of the solution to offset the population trend.”

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