Eastern enrollment reaches new high

By Dick Mason, The Observer November 15, 2011 08:19 pm
University has 4,298 students, breaking last year’s 4,137 figure Strong student retention and an increase in transfer students have helped propel EOU to another enrollment record.

Fourth-week fall term Oregon University System enrollment statistics indicate that Eastern has a head count 4,298 students, shattering its record of 4,137 set a year ago. This marks the fourth year in a row Eastern has set an enrollment record.

EOU’s enrollment includes 664 transfer students, up 16 percent from a year ago. The majority of Eastern’s transfers are from Blue Mountain, Treasure Valley and Mount Hood community colleges. A major reason so many students are coming from these three may be that Eastern has satellite campuses at each of the community colleges. EOU advisers at these campuses work closely with students planning to attend Eastern later.

“We have great people working at the community colleges and their hard work is paying off,’’ said EOU President Bob Davies.

Students working with EOU advisers at three schools know exactly which class credits they earned at their community college will be accepted by Eastern.

“We want them to have a seamless transfer,’’ Davies said.

The EOU president began expecting the surge in community college transfers two years ago when community college enrollment in Oregon reached an all-time high. The Eastern president said he knew that many of these students would transfer to four-year colleges and universities.

The poor economy is another big reason for the increase in community college transfers. Many high school graduates are choosing to initially enroll at local community colleges rather than four-year universities to save money. It costs less to attend a community college because tuition is lower. In addition, students with community colleges in their hometowns have the opportunity to live at home for the first two years of their post-secondary education.

The fourth-week enrollment figures also indicate that Eastern has a record 2,018 students on campus, about 20 more than its previous high. Davies said he is excited about Eastern’s increasing number of on-campus students.

“This gives us more vibrancy on campus,’’ Davies said.

On-campus students are those who are taking at least one class on campus. A total of 2,280 Eastern students are taking classes exclusively online.

Davies, when looking at the total enrollment picture, describes himself as “ecstatic and perplexed.’’ He is delighted that total enrollment is up but points out that the number of freshman at Eastern is down 79 from a year ago at 385. Davies is not sure of the reason for this drop but noted that this is a trend at universities throughout Oregon and the nation.

“We are in line (with the many other universities), but we want to be better,’’ Davies said.

The EOU president said he believes that the drop in freshmen may reflect the nation’s poor economy.

The good news on the freshmen front is that many of last year’s first-year students are back. EOU’s retention rate was 71.7 percent, just short of its record of 72 percent set two years ago. A university’s retention rate is determined by the percent of freshmen from the previous year who return.

Fourth-week figures also reveal that Eastern’s full-time equivalent enrollment is up 2.4 percent. Full-time equivalent enrollment is determined by combining the total number of credit hours students are taking and dividing it by 12. A full-time student is considered to be one who is taking at least 12 credit hours.

Davies noted that the 2.4 percent full-time equivalent increase is below the 3.9 percent head count jump. He said this probably indicates that students are taking fewer credits to save money.

Fourth-week enrollment figures indicate that total head count for the eight schools in the Oregon University System is up 3.5 percent. The OUS now has 100,315 students, topping the 100,000 mark for the first time.