Enrollment decreases are slight at SOU, RCC

Despite deep budget cuts last year, enrollment held fairly steady this fall at both Southern Oregon University and Rogue Community College.

Southern Oregon University saw a dip in the number of students, but a tiny increase in full-time equivalent numbers, a standard measure based on credits earned that accounts for full- and part-time students and is used to determine state funding.

Rogue Community College posted small decreases in both number of students and full-time equivalents.

Both schools reported enrollment figures to the state Monday. The state bases funding for post-secondary education on a school's enrollment at the fourth week of classes.

State officials had predicted that SOU's enrollment would drop after a "retrenchment process" that started about a year ago and included layoffs, program eliminations and the creation of a new, consolidated College of Arts and Sciences.

"After a difficult year, we're pretty pleased" with enrollment numbers, said Jonathan Eldridge, SOU's vice president for student affairs.

The 2007 head count of students totalled 4,836, down about 3.3 percent from 5,002 at the fourth week of the fall 2006 term. However, the 2006 number included non-admitted students such as high school students taking college classes and some graduate students who aren't included in this year's count, Eldridge explained. After accounting for that difference, this year's head count is down about 1 percent from last year's, he said.

The full-time equivalent number climbed to 3,766, up from 3,761.6 last year, Eldridge said.

"That's good budget news," he said.

SOU is on track with its budget set out in the retrenchment plan, and officials believe this is the start of enrollment stability after three years of dwindling numbers.

"We've had strong classes coming in during the last few years and our retention efforts are starting to pay off," Eldridge said.

While budget officials feel good about the increase in the full-time equivalent number, it's also good news for students, he said. It shows students are taking more classes, so they can earn their degrees faster. Studies indicate full-time students are more likely to stay in college and complete their coursework, he said.

At RCC, officials reported enrollment of 6,477 students, down about 5.5 percent from 6,858 in 2006. However, the full-time equivalent number fell to 1,126.9 from 1,130.4 a year ago, a decline of 0.3 percent.

Claudia Sullivan, RCC's director of enrollment services, noted that while the key full-time equivalent measure was flat overall, it was up 19 in academic and professional and technical programs. The number of credits being earned in those programs is growing, she said.

Credits earned in basic education classes, such as adult education, English as a second language and General Educational Development courses, and online classes are also increasing, she said.

RCC also adds more students throughout the term with occupational training programs and work experience placements, Sullivan said.

"The fourth week is an important benchmark for academic and profession and technical programs, but our rolling enrollment will keep increasing," she said.

The state releases detailed enrollment figures for universities next month.

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