Jun 302009
Authors: Emily Johnson

Despite the economic downturn, summer enrollment at universities and colleges nationwide seems to be holding steady, and CSU undergraduate summer enrollment saw a 2 percent increase over last year.

And while overall enrollment stayed about even from 2008 to 2009, CSU officials said more students are taking a fewer number of classes.

“Even though the undergraduate head count is up by 103 students, the numbers of credit hours are even with last year,” said Barbara Gotshall, the director of CSU’s Summer Session.

Though current numbers do not represent the final head count for the session, they are very close, Gotshall said, reporting the following enrollment figures:

For summer 2009 there are 5,857 students enrolled, not including veterinary students, compared with summer 2008’s figure of 5,821.

There are 4,983 undergraduates taking classes this summer, representing a 2 percent increase over 2008, and

There are 94 fewer graduate students enrolled in summer session 2009.

The University of Colorado reported a similar increase.

“It’s about 1 percent,” said Carol Drake, director of Summer Studies for CU, of the summer enrollment increase. “With the economy, we didn’t know what to expect.”

Like CU, most universities are falling within their projections this summer.

Registrar Sandra Phillips with Michigan State University, a land grant institution like CSU, said they are right on target.

“We’re pretty consistent. Each summer we see about a 1 percent increase in enrollment,” Phillips said.

Kansas State University, another land grant school, has seen a very slight fluctuation in summer enrollment over the past few years.

Statistical and Information Officer Ann Stearns reported that since 2006, each summer saw increases and decreases of between 50 to 190 students. The numbers for 2009 aren’t in yet.

A few schools, however, have seen slight decreases.

Linda Schoepflin, director of Summer Studies at Washington State University, said the economy was her best guess for why WSU saw 290 fewer heads this summer than last.

“We were up in the beginning of the session, but it’s down now,” she said. “We’ll see in the fall if the economy is really making a difference.”

Registrar of Summer Sessions, Kathy Pace, said things are looking up for Cornell University.

“Summer sessions are a great time for classes here because they are much smaller in size so that’s more one-on-one time with faculty,” Pace said.

“Cornell also offers open enrollment for summer sessions, so it’s a great opportunity for returning students, or those who just need a few classes to complete their academic goals,” she said.

While university summer numbers are holding steady, community colleges across the nation are enrolling significantly more students this summer from last.

“There’s no definite research right now but usually when the economy takes a hit, people will go back to school because they are out of work or want to update their skills,” said Pat Mead, director of Institutional Research at Front Range Community College, whose enrollment is up 22 percent from last summer.

Mead said while she didn’t know of all the factors contributing to FRCC’s increased enrollment, she had some guesses.

“Community colleges can offer degrees and certifications in programs quicker than a four-year institution,” Mead said, saying that two-year degrees in health care and the emerging “green” industry are very popular right now.

Pueblo Community College too saw a 20 percent increase from last year, enrolling 150 more students than projected.

“We were pretty flat for a few years but when the economy slows, there are less jobs and people go back to school,” Marketing Coordinator Erin Ragulsky said. “It’s more affordable and they can quickly join the workforce.”

Ragulsky also said that community colleges are a great springboard to eventually attending a university, as it’s an affordable way to get core requirements out of the way. She’s concerned about Colorado’s budget crisis though.

“If the state doesn’t solve (budget constraints) in two years, tuition everywhere will increase,” she said.

Cheryl Roland, executive director of Relations for Western Michigan University said while their summer enrollment is within plus or minus 1 percent of enrollment projections, there is an increase in community college attendance in the growing Detroit area.

“Families are keeping their students at home to save on the cost of education and commuting. Community colleges across Michigan are seeing a tremendous increase in applications and admissions because of this,” Roland said.

Even so, Barbara Gotshall doesn’t believe this is bad news for our university. She’s not surprised that community colleges are seeing increased enrollment, especially during summer sessions.

“We can’t compete with community college tuition. Students who go home for the summer can pick up classes that transfer to CSU more affordably,” she said.

“But most CSU students are juniors and seniors,” Gotshall said. “I’m not worried about losing students (to community colleges).”

In fact, Gotshall said she has received an increased number of phone calls from parents in Colorado and around the nation that are opting for CSU because tuition is a little more affordable compared with others across the nation.

“There may be a trend beyond the summer session,” Gotshall said, referring to potential fall enrollment fluctuations as a result of the economy. “We’ll see.”

Staff writer Emily Johnson can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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