Deidre Golden remembers Indiana Tech when she was growing up nearby as a small campus with a few buildings and what used to be a grocery store.
Now a sophomore at the school, Golden is part of a bulging enrollment at Indiana Tech.
Its awesome to be part of a school where you feel like youre growing with the school, Golden said.
With 1,136 more students, Indiana Tech had the largest enrollment growth among area colleges and universities this year. Meanwhile, enrollment declines continued at Ivy Tech, IPFW and Huntington University.
Steve Herendeen, vice president of Indiana Techs College of Professional Studies, said theres no secret to the growth the school has seen.
Were offering relevant degrees and relevant courses delivered in a flexible model, Herendeen said.
The most significant area of student enrollment growth has been in the healthcare-related fields, he said.
Indiana Tech added a health information technology course in 2012 and the program currently has about 340 students enrolled, Herendeen said.
Patrice Suplicki, a senior, chose Indiana Tech to study mechanical engineering, despite the distance between the campus and her home in Wisconsin.
I looked at IPFW and schools in North Dakota and South Dakota, she said. And I knew I wanted to play softball.
But once she arrived at Indiana Tech, Suplicki said she knew that would be the best fit to play softball and study mechanical engineering.
I felt so comfortable. There are small classes, no lecture halls and thats what I wanted, she said. Everyone knows me by name and my professors seem to genuinely care about me.
The largest enrollment drop in the area was at Ivy Tech, down more than 970 students this fall, a 9.7 percent decrease since fall 2012.
Andrew Welch, executive director of marketing and communications, said although the college is down in enrollment, theres no single issue at blame.
All in all, its a combination of a lot of things that are happening, Welch said. The economy has turned around a bit and more people are back at work, and nationwide we saw the least amount of high school graduates last year.
Welch said although Ivy Tech likes to see the same number of students from year to year, influxes and declines are normal.
We had a huge spike in enrollment from 2008 to 2009 where we had an influx of 3,000 students in just one academic year, Welch said. We flat-lined for three years until 2011 when we saw the downtick begin.
The college has added new programs in agriculture, supply chain management and logistics, energy technology, visual communications, health information technology, information security and hospitality administration, Cathy Maxwell, vice chancellor for academic affairs, said.
Though seeing fewer students in the halls frustrates leaders of some institutions, national data show they are not alone in the struggle to maintain enrollment.
If youve been tracking the national media on enrollments, for the first time in a long time, college enrollments are less now than they were even a year ago, said George McClellan, IPFWs Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management.
McClellan said IPFWs 2.3 percent decline can be attributed to several factors.
While the number of students taking dual-credit courses through local high schools is up about 20 percent, the university has a declining number of juniors and seniors returning, as well as fewer graduate students and transfer students, he said.
McClellan said IPFW is in the process of creating a new strategic plan to allow the universitys leaders a chance to take a closer look at what programs are getting students in the door and keeping them coming back.
In the short term, a campaign to attract adult learners, an effort to bring in students who graduate high school with dual-credit classes through IPFW and a tuition reciprocity agreement with Ohio colleges should also help boost numbers, McClellan said.
The only regional private school to see an enrollment decline was Huntington University, whose enrollment has been slowly slipping in recent years. Despite growth in several programs, Huntington Universitys enrollment is down 7.7 percent from last year.
Part of that is because of a large graduating class, but the economy has continued to play an important role in enrollment, Jeff Berggren, senior vice president for enrollment management and marketing for the university, said.
To help offset costs, the universitys board of trustees voted in January to freeze tuition for the 2013-14 school year.
The university also added new programs to help bring students in, Berggren said. The new digital media arts program accounted for 41 of the universitys 272 new students, Berggren said. Other departments, including kinesiology and recreational management, have also been growing each year, he said.
It used to be we would get five to seven new students each year for those departments and now were seeing 18 to 22, he said. Theres a lot of interest in lifestyle sciences, so thats an area of growth for us.
Other areas have seen sharp declines, he said.
Education is one of those areas that has been a real challenge, he said. It used to be our largest major hands down, but with the environment in education within the state, both our students and their parents are reading stories about teaching positions being cut, so were seeing fewer students come in for teaching jobs.
Grace College and Seminarys enrollment this year was up by 83 students. College officials attribute the growth in part to a three-year accelerated degree program that spans all 60 majors, allowing students to graduate sooner, save a years tuition and enter the workforce a year earlier, according to a release.
The increased number of students choosing Grace demonstrates that our aggressive attempts to lower costs and present more efficient educational models are directly benefiting students who seek the best value in educational options, College President Bill Katip said.
Enrollment at the University of Saint Francis grew by 45 students compared to last fall.
Enrollment has increased at the University of Saint Francis largely due to the development of online programs offered in our College of Adult Learning, said JP Spangnolo, vice president for enrollment management.
Online courses make it easier for working adults to complete classes at their convenience and have helped boost enrollment, Spangnolo said.
Finding a way to connect with students where they are and when they have time is a crucial part to remaining competitive, Trine University officials agreed.
Trine Universitys enrollment increased by 16 this fall, a small, but important gain, Stuart Jones, vice president for enrollment management, said.
Were working hard to create programs that address 21st century students and 21st century needs to help make sure our students are work-ready, Jones said.
Those programs include growth in physical therapy, exercise science, and leadership degrees.
We have a growing aging population in this country and these jobs in the healthcare field are growing quickly, Jones said. Anything in the healthcare industry is big and in-demand and Trine is finding ways to get students into those jobs.