Miami University’s Hamilton and Middletown campuses have seen an overall decrease in enrollment numbers over the past five years.
Since 2014, enrollment has dipped by about 22 percent on the Hamilton campus and 11 percent on the Middletown campus, according to data collected each October. The decreases represent almost a thousand fewer students enrolled at the regional campuses.
“We are concerned about this decline and are taking aggressive steps to change that pattern,” said Cathy Bishop-Clark, associate provost and dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Applied Science.
Kristen Taylor, Miami’s senior regional director of enrollment management, attributed the overall decline to economic growth and staff turnover in the admissions office.
When the economy improves, Taylor said, schools with open admission — universities like Miami’s regional campuses, where almost every applicant is accepted — see decreased enrollment as more high school graduates go straight into the workforce and fewer older adults return to school.
Other regional campuses in Ohio have seen smaller declines over the same period. The University of Cincinnati’s regional campuses have declined by approximately 3 percent for UC Blue Ash and 7 percent for UC Clermont over the last five years.
Enrollment at The Ohio State University’s Mansfield campus has declined by approximately 7 percent over five years, with the Lima campus going down 4 percent and Wooster by 2 percent.
Each of Miami’s regional campuses has only two admissions counselors who are responsible for recruiting students. Counselors often only stay for a single year, Taylor said, which hurts recruitment efforts when the positions are vacant. For instance, three of the four counselor positions were vacant last summer.
“Those are entry-level positions, so we tend to have staff … resign for other opportunities or personal choices,” Taylor said.
Taylor said the office of admissions is working to decrease staff turnover and improve recruitment by increasing the number of admissions counselor positions and raising salaries to improve staff retention.
For the 2017-2018 school year, the average salary for an admissions counselor at the regional campuses was just under $33,000 a year, according to university data.
Another factor that has contributed to the overall decline in enrollment numbers is the decrease in students taking the regional campuses’ College Credit Plus program, which Taylor attributes to high schools offering a larger number of courses through local community colleges.
Although numbers have been declining in recent years, Taylor said she is working to address this issue.
“Right now we are cautiously optimistic that we will be increasing year-over-year our incoming students,” she said.
Applications are not closed for the incoming class, but the regional campuses have received 13 percent more applications this year than they had at the same time last year. There have been increases in application numbers in the past few years which did not result in an increase in enrolled students, but Taylor said the increases have never been this large.
Additionally, Miami established a new Transfer Pathways and Partnerships Office last fall, which aims to help recruit transfer students. Taylor hopes this will increase the number of transfer students in the coming years, which could augment cohorts where enrollment targets were missed.