Enrollment at the University of Akron declined for the second year in a row, officials said Thursday.
The 5.9 percent drop to 27,079 appeared to be the largest in Northeastern Ohio, according to early reports from other tax-supported universities.
Kent State enrollment dipped about 1 percent and Youngstown State, 3.1 percent. Cleveland State reported a 1.2 percent increase, which includes a 13 percent growth in freshmen.
What the decline may mean to UA’s continuing budget problems is unclear.
The university eliminated 100 positions, some of which were vacant, and took other steps earlier this year to close a $27.6 million budget gap for 2013-14.
UA chief financial officer David Cummins has said that the university may have to make additional cuts if its enrollment dropped as he predicted, about 5 to 7 percent.
Trustees will meet in October to consider a revamped budget that will reflect the decline. Deans, vice presidents and other top officials already have been asked to look for ways to cut their budgets.
“The budget reduction process continues in the colleges and departments, with more clarity now that the enrollment numbers are in,” UA spokeswoman Eileen Korey said.
UA chalked up its downturn to its two-year policy to steer under-prepared students to community colleges. This year, UA referred almost 400 applicants with low test scores and grade-point averages to cheaper two-year colleges.
Starting next year, most four-year universities will be doing the same, if they are not doing so already. The state only will pay for remedial classes at branch campuses (like UA’s Wayne College in Orrville), two-year colleges and Youngstown, Shawnee and Central State universities.
UA Provost Mike Sherman said students who are referred elsewhere “will be able to receive more preparatory courses and be better able to succeed in the initial stages of their higher education.”
UA’s law school enrollment dropped 9 percent, and its graduate enrollment held steady. At the same time, UA praised its entering class of bachelor’s degree seeking students for their average GPA of 3.3. Kent State praised its entering class for the same achievement earlier this week.
One-third of UA’s freshman class ranked in the top 25 percent of their high school class, and 43 new students are class valedictorians.
“Our freshman class is stronger and better prepared for the academic challenges,” UA President Luis Proenza said in a news release.
UA’s downturn was not unusual, given that the number of high school students — the meat and potatoes of many freshman classes — is shrinking statewide.
In addition to Kent State, UA and YSU, the University of Toledo lost 3 percent of its enrollment, for instance; Bowling Green, 1.4 percent; and Wright State, 1.1 percent.
However, some four-year universities appeared to be bucking the downward trend.
In addition to CSU, the University of Cincinnati reported a 1.6 percent growth and Ohio University, a 2.3 percent growth.
Ohio State, always one of the largest universities in the country and usually a steady climber, said it would release its enrollment figures today.
A total enrollment picture for the entire state won’t be available for several days.
Ohio Board of Regents spokesman Jeff Robinson said 15-day headcounts are due to the Columbus office Sept. 20.
Carol Biliczky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-996-3729.