Wright State University’s enrollment is expected to hit its lowest point in more than a decade this coming academic year.
The number of full-time students at Wright State is projected to drop from 14,651 students last school year to 13,861 this academic year, according to a budget proposal approved by trustees on Thursday.
The anticipated drop, which amounts to a decline of nearly 5.4 percent, is nearly double the decline between the 2015-2016 school year and last school year.
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» INITIAL REPORT: Boosting enrollment key to solving WSU financial issues
The decline is difficult for cash-strapped Wright State, as the university’s single biggest source of revenue is tuition. Student tuition and fees are expected to generate around $178 million or 61 percent of Wright State’s revenue for fiscal year 2018, according to the budget.
Trustees approved more than $30.8 million in budget cuts Thursday, and administrators have said the best way to avoid more cuts is to boost enrollment.
“Our budget remains fragile; our enrollment, and hence our income, is uncertain,” interim president Curtis McCray told the campus community via email Friday. “We cannot rest easily until we are confident of our strength—perhaps, not even then.”
Wright State’s full-time enrollment peaked during the 2010 to 2011 academic year with 16,705 students.
The high point was partially due to the fact that people were trying to obtain their degrees before a quarter to semester transition took place, officials have said. The Great Recession also contributed to the enrollment surge, as people who lost their jobs went back to school.
It may be too soon to tell if Wright State’s recent troubles have shrunk enrollment but a few outside factors have clearly precipitated the drop, according to the budget.
Wright State saw a dip of more than 400 international students last fall, costing the school around $10 million. The loss was mostly from Saudi Arabia, where a government scholarship program changed, officials have said.
Wright State is also up against an ongoing decline of Ohio high school grads. The number of Ohio high school grads is expected to decline by more than 13,000 by 2032, according to a report released in December by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.
Wright State administrators and trustees have called for an enrollment task force to be formed, and last month provost Tom Sudkamp announced the university would form one. Wright State’s vice president of business and finance, Jeff Ulliman, echoed calls for boosting enrollment as he presented the school’s budget for next year.
“I know you’ve heard it many times before, but I can’t emphasize it enough,” Ulliman said. “We can’t continue cutting our way to prosperity. We need to increase enrollments.”