By Justin Wier
For the first time since 2011, Youngstown State University registered an increase in enrollment.
There are 12,361 students enrolled this semester compared to 12,320 in spring 2015. The 41-student difference represents a .33 percent increase in enrollment. The previous spring, YSU experienced a 4 percent decrease.
Gary Swegan, associate vice president for enrollment planning and management, said the gains are modest but things are moving in the right direction. He said this is the continuation of a trend that began with stabilized enrollment and a substantial freshman class enrolling in the fall.
“None of this is a surprise. We’re pleased — no question about it — but we expected it,” Swegan said.
He said the performance this fall will serve as a bellwether.
“We feel like this is really just the beginning,” Swegan said. “If we can repeat something close to or exceed what we did last year, and you continue to see those retention gains, then you’re going to see a nice healthy increase.”
Swegan attributed the gain to the larger freshman class and increased retention rates.
In 2015, 2,125 freshmen enrolled, up 17 percent from the previous year. The university also experienced a 6.2 percent increase in freshman-to-sophomore retention.
“That continues to flow through the system in the spring,” Swegan said.
The university also registered an increase in graduate and international students with increases of 6 and 18 percent respectively.
Swegan also said a disproportionate number of College Credit Plus registrations don’t hit the system until Spring, but that is the case every year.
The university uses spring-to-spring and fall-to-fall comparisons when measuring changes in enrollment to account for differences between the numbers, similar to seasonally-adjusted unemployment rates.
“Spring is never larger than the fall just because you’ve got a mid-year graduation, you’ve got a percentage unfortunately no matter what we do that don’t come back for spring and you don’t replace those with nearly as many students that are coming in the front door midyear,” Swegan said.
Swegan said he expected an increase of about 50 students this spring, so 41 is in the ballpark. He expects the number to be much larger in the fall.
“I’m not ready to make a prediction at this point, but it will be more than just 40 students,” Swegan said. “It will be a more substantial increase in the fall for sure.”