Wright State optimistic about higher application numbers

Wright State University graduates from left, Sarayu Kunisetty, Shakti Patel and Shraddha Patel shop for graduation gowns at the university book store Wednesday Feb. 23, 2022. Wright State has seen a 6.9% increase in high school senior applications to the university this year. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

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Wright State University graduates from left, Sarayu Kunisetty, Shakti Patel and Shraddha Patel shop for graduation gowns at the university book store Wednesday Feb. 23, 2022. Wright State has seen a 6.9% increase in high school senior applications to the university this year. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Wright State University says the number of students applying for the fall semester are up, following a national trend at other schools but also signaling the university, which laid off faculty last year due to declining enrollment, may be able to increase its student count.

The university has received more than 6,000 applications from high school seniors, a 6.9% increase from the same time last year, and a 22.6% increase over where the university was for fall 2020 high school senior applications at this point, Susan Schauer, the university’s vice president for enrollment management, said.

“We’re excited to see the interest in Wright State and a Wright State degree climb amongst the region and amongst students around the state of Ohio,” she said.

Enrollment at Wright State has dropped significantly in the last 10 years. Between fall 2011 semester and fall 2021 semester, overall enrollment fell by about 41%, from 19,511 total students in 2011 to 11,469 in fall 2021, according to numbers that Wright State provided to the Ohio Department of Higher Education. Between fall 2016 and fall 2021, enrollment fell around 35%, according to the same numbers.

Wright State administrators cite a declining number of high school graduates in Ohio and the pandemic as contributors to the problem.

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Nationwide, college applications for first-year, U.S. students are up 13.2% this year relative to pre-pandemic year 2019–20, with 1,106,777 applicants compared to 977,914 in 2019–20. That’s according to a recent survey that analyzed data from the Common App, a standardized application portal that allows students to apply to multiple universities. More than 900 universities, including Wright State, use the Common App portal.

The survey also noted that less selective universities saw modest increases in applications compared to more selective universities, who saw higher rates of growth.

Schauer said the university has also seen the number of applications for transfer students climb by about 2.5%, something that the university has pushed in the last year. The university works primarily with Sinclair Community College, Edison State College and Clark State College to get students to transfer into Wright State to finish a bachelor’s degree.

International student applications are also up, she said, from about 122 applications for international freshmen at this time last year to 179 applications this year. The number of international students applying is still small compared to the domestic students applying, Schauer noted, and Wright State has a commitment to serve Ohio students and the Dayton region.

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Wright State cut 113 faculty positions last year, laying off 16 positions and making up the rest through retirements and people leaving for other jobs. Wright State administrators and trustees cited falling enrollment numbers, particularly among first-year students, as the reason for the cuts.

To help ensure students come to college, the university is holding workshops to help students and their families complete the FAFSA, which calculates aid for students, Wright State president Sue Edwards said. Students are more likely to attend college if they complete the packet, which is fairly detailed. But there’s also been an increase in the number of online applications for scholarships, Schauer noted.

Edwards said the university has been working with local high schools and community centers in the core counties that the university deems “Raider Country.” That’s the 16 counties that include and surround Wright State’s two campuses — Allen, Aug­laize, Butler, Champaign, Clark, Clinton, Darke, Greene, Logan, Mercer, Miami, Montgomery, Preble, Shelby, Van Wert and Warren counties.

“It’s much to celebrate,” Schauer said. “And we are feeling optimistic about making certain that we continue the great work that’s transpired over the last two years.”


Wright State enrollment

2016 17,512

2017 16,850

2018 15,475

2019 13,642

2020 12,334

2021 11,469 * estimated as of fall

Source: Ohio Department of Higher Education

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