MONMOUTH — Western Oregon University turned back the trend of decreased enrollment over the last few years, according to numbers released Nov. 14 by the Oregon University System.
Western hit record enrollment in the 2010 fall term with 6,233 students, but lost 46 students by the fall of 2012.
The 2013 report counts 6,188 students at Western this term, up just a single student from 2012.
“We’re seeing a few trends,” said Mark Weiss, WOU president. “Among those is we’re seeing more students taking less full-time loads.”
Western’s full-time student count is down 132 students from last year’s report.
Another trend Western is seeing is decreased enrollment by first-time, new resident freshmen.
Down 19.6 percent from last year, 862 first-time freshmen enrolled at Western for the 2013 fall term.
“I think there are some major reasons for that, but I wish I knew the answers,” Weiss said. “We have a flattening in the demographics of our graduating high school seniors across the state.”
The leveling off of incoming freshmen dramatically affects the state’s 40-40-20 initiative.
Passed by the Legislature in 2011, the state set an ambitious goal to have 40 percent of adults to have a bachelor’s or other advanced degree, 40 percent to have an associate degree and all Oregonians to have a high school diploma or equivalent.
Plans are to have that goal met by 2025, but the trend across all OUS schools is a decline in incoming freshmen.
Western is currently reaching out to school districts across the state to raise awareness about the college experience and the importance of higher education.
“Last week we had a school bus full of Hillsboro educators come down and meet with Western professors, talking about how to instill preparedness and getting through high school,” Weiss said.
It wasn’t all bad news for Western in the report.
With 170 fewer freshmen coming to campus, that one student overall increase had to come from somewhere.
This fall, Western saw a record 327 international students enroll as well as 658 transfer students — 38 more than last year.
“We love having international students on our campus. It adds diversity to our campus,” Weiss said. “And international students pay up to three times the tuition rate of an Oregonian, which helps us supplement the educational experience for Oregonians as well.”