The Journal Gazette
Sunday, September 17, 2017 1:00 am

IPFW enrollment declines

Area private colleges see increases this year

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

Declining enrollment continued this fall at Fort Wayne's public colleges as some private northeast Indiana schools marked milestones and saw enviable booms.

Ivy Tech Community College Northeast, which includes Fort Wayne and Wabash locations, reported 6,795 students, down about 8 percent from 7,376 last fall. The numbers, however, do not include students enrolling in 12- and eight-week courses, which begin Monday and Oct. 16, respectively, spokesman Andrew Welch said in an email.

“The numbers we truly see as important are the end of term, when the semester ends,” he said.

IPFW, the region's largest university, has about 13 percent fewer students than it did last fall, when total enrollment – including high school students taking college courses – was 12,010. This year, 10,414 students registered for 107,806 credit hours, down from 119,232, or nearly 10 percent.

A shrinking student body has persisted in recent years and is an issue faced by regional public institutions in the Midwest, said Carl Drummond, IPFW's vice chancellor for academic affairs.

Challenges include having more students graduate than enrolling. A goal this year is to improve student yield, or getting more admitted applicants to enroll, Drummond said.

He also understands the upcoming Indiana-Purdue split is complicated and confusing for students and parents. It is naive to say the changes didn't affect enrollment, he said, but it is difficult to quantify.

Officials are excited about recruiting the fall 2018 class because they can recruit for Purdue University Fort Wayne and use the brand recognition associated with Purdue, Drummond said. He said IPFW is a difficult concept to explain to students in places such as Evansville; Dayton, Ohio; and Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Recruitment also can be difficult when institutions vie for the same students, Drummond said. And the pool of high school graduates isn't projected to get any bigger.

The National Center for Education Statistics reports the total number of high school graduates is estimated to increase 3 percent between 2011-12 and 2024-25. In comparison, that demographic increased 22 percent between 1999-2000 and 2011-12.

In the Midwest, the number of public high school graduates is projected to be 1 percent lower in 2024-25 than in 2011-12. Indiana's decline is expected to be within 5 percent, but estimates for Michigan and Ohio show decreases of 5 percent or more.

About 82 percent of IPFW's students are from Allen and nine surrounding counties, according to its fall enrollment analysis. Only 7 percent of students are from out of state.

Trine University mostly draws from the Midwest, but its student body comes from about 37 states and 29 countries, up from 12 countries in fall 2013, said Scott Goplin, vice president for enrollment management. Trine has seven other locations, including in Fort Wayne.

Trine has been known as the state's fastest-growing private university, and the growth isn't slowing. The headcount for the main campus in Angola increased 20 percent to 4,164 students. Overall enrollment for all Trine campuses is up 3 percent. Freshman and transfer student enrollment increased 38 percent.

“Most schools would be very envious,” Goplin said.

The university credits a new hockey program for helping fuel enrollment. It also reported increased student retention and growing interest in such academic areas as exercise science, biochemistry, biomedical engineering, business, criminal justice and education.

“We've got a formula that seems to work for us,” Goplin said.

In Fort Wayne, Indiana Tech's traditional undergraduate program increased 6.4 percent to 1,710. For the first time, total enrollment – that includes 14 regional campuses and online students – topped 10,000 with 10,282 students, up 2.5 percent from last year.

“The continued growth in our enrollments shows that prospective students value that commitment, and see Indiana Tech as a place that can help them succeed,” President Karl Einolf said in a statement.

The University of Saint Francis has 2,364 students, a 5.4 percent increase. In a statement, the college attributed much of the growth to creative arts, business, biology, criminal justice/criminology and health science programs.

Huntington University marked its fourth consecutive year of growth with a total enrollment of 1,321, which includes 87 undergraduates at its Peoria, Arizona, site. New student enrollment was up 9 percent.

Other colleges experienced slight declines after record years.

Manchester University, which set records the two previous years, has 1,562 students, or about 2 percent fewer students than it did last fall.

Grace College this fall welcomed 1,278 undergrads, compared with last year's record 1,295. Other highlights from the Winona Lake school included increases in online graduate enrollment, a record number of business majors and more than 400 entering students.

“We've made this benchmark for six years in a row now,” Cindy Sisson, vice president of enrollment management and marketing, said in a statement.

“It's also encouraging to see an increasing number of students choose accelerated and blended degrees. It seems clear that our efforts in innovation and affordability are paying off.”

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