UO bucks enrollment trend

Photo credit: University of Oregon

The University of Oregon wants to downsize its student population.

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The phrase “increase enrollment” has become a mantra in university enrollment offices nationwide. But what happens when too many students enroll?  

Apparently that’s the problem UO faced in recent years.  And the university is cutting back in response.

The university released 2016 fall enrollment figures last week, and they are down 2% with 23,634 students enrolled.

Declining enrollment is typically cause for concern. That’s not the case at UO.

Roger Thompson, vice president for Student Services and Enrollment Management, said the university is actively scaling back enrollment.

“Our focus has not been on growth at the University of Oregon. Instead, we have been interested in maintaining a student body of 24,000 students,” Thompson said. “Over the past several years, we grew a bit larger than that number, and we have been right-sizing for the past couple years.”

Right-sizing at UO refers to a university-wide shift away from enrolling as many students as possible toward quality of services and manageable class sizes. Thompson said academic quality and diversity take precedence over quantity.

Students are now entering UO with a 3.6 GPA, he said, up from a 3.4 average. At least 50% have already racked up college credits. Thompson said 31% of UO’s freshman class are minorities and another 7% are international students.

Thompson declined to comment on the impact a Trump presidency would have on campus diversity.  “Much of this is not yet determined, and it would be inappropriate to speculate.”

The president-elect has said he intends to cancel visas from foreign countries that will not accept illegal immigrants sent back from the U.S. Among the list of countries is China, which sends more than 300,000 students to the U.S. each year. 

In other UO news, Thompson said the recent $500 million donation from Phil Knight will impact student majors more than university enrollment.  “I think the gift will increase the number of students interested in studying science, technology and related subjects at the University of Oregon,” he said.

Thompson said the university is looking to add between 80 and 100 new faculty members in the next five years. Adding faculty could mean a boost in enrollment, as long as class sizes hover at 25 students, he said.

“That’s something we’ll do very thoughtfully and cautiously.”

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