Wright State focuses student recruitment in Ohio

Effort is seen as school competes for fewer high school grads

Wright State University is doubling-down on recruitment efforts in southwest Ohio - the school’s No. 1 source for students - to combat a statewide trend of smaller high school graduation classes.

According to a presentation at a June 18 board of trustees meeting, 10 of 16 counties that Wright State attracts the majority of its student population from are projected to have fewer high school graduates in upcoming years. The two counties that provide the largest number of graduates - Montgomery and Greene counties - are projected to grow, however. Greene County high schools are forecast to graduate 7.11% more students over the next few years; Montgomery County schools will grow 1 percent.

The university recently made available $1,000 welcome scholarships to first-year undergraduate students who are recent high school graduates.

“It’s my true belief that a culture that is truly focused on understanding and meeting the needs of our students will always be one of success,” said Wright State president Sue Edwards when she announced the awards. “Not just for our students, but for every member of the Wright State community and the region in which we serve.”

According to university data, Wright State has a higher percentage of its students from within the state than any other Ohio university.

Other pressures are that in addition to there being fewer high school graduates, recruiters say more students have delayed their college education until the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

Wright State has seen about a 30% decline in enrollment overall in the last five years. First-year undergraduate student enrollment has declined by 53% since 2015, according to university data.

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Wright State’s efforts to turn that around are going to remain focused on the region and the state.

“The university operates from an overall enrollment strategy which includes first and foremost serving the needs of our immediate communities in the Dayton region and continuing to grow healthy and valuable partnerships with our local school systems and industries,” said Seth Bauguess, a spokesman for Wright State.

That is needed because Wright State was the only Ohio university to see a decrease in the number of students from out-of-state between 2009 and 2019, with enrollment by those students falling by 70.5% in that time period, according to Ohio Department of Higher Education data.

The school is also going to try to build on its success with international students. Between 2009 and 2019, Ohio saw a 78.8% increase in the number of international students enrolling at state universities. Wright State increased the number of international students in that time period by 10.8%.

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In 2009, 3.9% of Wright State’s student population were international students. By 2016, that number rose to nine percent. In 2019 it was 5.4%, according to the Ohio Department of Higher Education.

Ohio State University and Miami University had the most international students enrolled in 2019. At Miami, 12.1% of students were from other countries in 2019, and at Ohio State’s main campus, 10.4% of the university’s student population were from other countries.

Wright State has a high retention rate of international students, according to Michelle Streeter-Ferrari, director of the University Center for International Education. She said at a Wright State finance audit meeting on May 21 Wright State has about an 80% retention rate for international students historically.

She also said the university is working to recruit more international students for the upcoming school year, especially now that COVID-19 vaccines are available. Many international students also remain in the region after graduation for additional training. She said their contribution to the region is “quite significant.”

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At a board of trustees meeting on June 18, staff noted Ohio has been placing greater emphasis on making sure the state gets a return on investment in its university students by seeking to keep them in jobs in the state. Wright State data showed that it is leading the pack, with about 97% of students remaining in the state.

Contact Eileen McClory at 937-694-2016 or eileen.mcclory@coxinc.com.

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