OSU sees overall increase in enrollment, Corvallis campus down 1.9 percent

Joe Wolf, Web & Mobile Manager

For the fifth year in a row, Oregon State University is the largest in the state with 32,011 students as of fall term 2018. It is the only public university in the state with an enrollment increase from last year.

While there are 107 more students enrolled in the university as a whole compared to last year, enrollment on the Corvallis campus—where the majority of OSU students take classes—decreased by 470 students from last year, according to a press release. This fluctuation could impact the university budget in the coming years. 

Budget and Tuition Impacts

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Last spring, when tuition rates were set, enrollment estimates for this year overestimated the number of students on the Corvallis campus. Sherm Bloomer, the director of Budget and Fiscal Planning at OSU, said this revenue shortfall is being examined.

“In general it means we will be more conservative in expenses to try to get the budget balanced before the end of the year,” Bloomer said in an email.

While Bloomer does not expect any change to tuition rates in the middle of this year, the deficit could have ripple effects on next year’s rates.

Student tuition dollars, charitable contributions and state funding all play a factor in the university budget. Steve Clark, vice president for university relations and marketing, said OSU President Ed Ray and other public university presidents are working together to lobby the state legislature and re-elected Gov. Kate Brown to increase funding for higher education.

“It’s a matter of legislative priority,” Clark said. “We think that higher education funding is a priority along with matters like public safety. We’ll be there in Salem and we hope our students will be there to communicate this need.”

International Student Enrollment

Currently 11 percent of OSU’s overall student population are international students. This group totals 3,410, a decline of 146 international students since last fall.

Clark said this decrease is partially due to changes in financial aid and academic priorities in foreign countries and not a correlation with changes in federal immigration policy under the Trump administration. He noted that Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, two countries that saw a decrease from last year, have changed the number of students who receive sponsorships to come the U.S. to further their education. 

Students from China, which also saw a decrease in enrollment from last year, are increasingly remaining in their home country after high school to learn English before attending a U.S. university, Clark said. 

“Along with these two factors, many more U.S. universities are recruiting for international students than in the past,” Clark said in an email. “All of these factors offer some explanation for the fall term decline in international enrollment.”

While these countries saw decreases, both Turkey and Russia saw large increases, according to Clark. Not all countries saw a fluctuation in the number of students, however. There was no change in enrollment for students from Kuwait and Libya.

Other Enrollment Changes

Within the U.S., the number of undergraduates coming to OSU directly from high school decreased 3.6 percent, down by 144 students from fall 2017. Clark pointed to smaller high school graduating classes throughout the state of Oregon as the university has graduated larger senior cohorts.

“Some of those numbers may have followed the recession and significant enrollment increases in 2009 and 2010,” Clark said. “It is difficult to maintain enrollment with such large graduating classes.”

Some in-state high school graduates are choosing to defer attending a four-year university to take advantage of the Oregon Promise, which provides tuition-free community college, Clark said. This is one of the factors that led to 173 more transfer students enrolling at OSU than last fall.

One group that has seen an increase in enrollment is students of color. There are 197 more non-white students at OSU this year than last year, a 2.6 percent increase. 

“The diversity of OSU’s enrollment is mission-driven,” Ray said in a press release. “It is essential that all Oregonians have access to a high-quality college degree, and that we connect our state to the people of the nation and the world through Oregon State’s diverse and inclusive enrollment.”

Another area that saw an increase was OSU’s online Ecampus offerings. There are now 6,565 taking classes this way, 478 students (7.9 percent) above last year.

“Higher education is changing,” Clark said. “That is why we see the growth in online learning—we’re taking education to where students are, whether it’s in Corvallis or online.”