Freshman enrollment hits four-year low: JCU follows national trend of smaller freshman class

January 24th, 2013

Consistent with both national and regional trends, John Carroll University’s freshman class enrollment hit a relative low for the 2012-2013 academic year. This year’s class of 681 is the lowest it has been since 2009 and is about 10 percent lower than the past ten years’ average of 755 students.


Similar drops are being experienced statewide, due in part to a decrease in the number of public high school graduates in Ohio, according to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Education. The number is expected to drop more than 18 percent between the peak of 2008-2009 and 2021-2022 from 122,200 to 99,990.


Given that about 70 percent of JCU students come  from Ohio, according to the 2012-2013 Fact Book published annually by JCU, this drop could be felt by the University.


Vice President for Enrollment Brian Williams said he and his colleagues are dedicated to staying on top of trends affecting college enrollment.


Williams referred to a report by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, which shows that high school graduates, while fewer in number, are expected to become more racially diverse overall. He sees this as an opportunity to increase diversity on a campus made up of 84 percent white students (according to the Fact Book).


He said, “Over the next decade, the growth in high school students (geographically and racially) will be centered in California, Arizona, Texas, Florida and New York. The overall racial composition in Ohio will not be changing as much as in these key states, but JCU must continue to make strides to be welcoming and inclusive to all students, especially in regards to racial diversity and the changing nature of the graduating high school student population.”


Williams said he and his colleagues have plans in place to deal with the challenges that the expected lower class sizes may pose.


“Locally, in the face of decline, we are working to show John Carroll’s distinctive changes, so that students that might not historically consider John Carroll will,” said Williams.


The Office of Admission is also working to compensate for the lower first-year enrollment rates through alternate sources of enrollment, including transfer and international students.


The JCU Fact Book shows that while there were more freshmen who applied and were accepted  this year than in recent years, fewer actually enrolled.


Furthermore, the number of inquiries for incoming freshman was significantly higher than the average of the past few years. Williams credits this increase to changes in recruitment strategies and growing interest in JCU with different marketing efforts.


“We have done more phone efforts and telemarketing among sophomores and juniors, and that has helped grow our numbers of inquiries recently,” he said. “The decision-making process is always complex, and there is never a direct link between more students being interested and more students enrolling.”


According to Williams, the change in size of the freshman class in any given year relies heavily on the success, or lack thereof, of out-of-state enrollment.


“In years when we are successful, our out of state enrollment is well over 700,” Williams said. “Nationally, approximately 80 percent of students go to school within a two-hour drive from their home, so we need to really focus on how JCU is distinctive and worth a student choosing us from further away.”