SOU bucks national trend by increasing 2017 enrollment

NEWS RELEASE (available online at https://goo.gl/EkCqH3)

(Ashland, Ore.) — Official fall term enrollment figures released by the state this week paint Southern Oregon University as an institution on the rise and an exception among universities nationwide.

SOU posted gains in both the number of full-time equivalent students and actual headcount of students this fall, compared to fall term of 2016. Figures on full-time equivalent students are considered the most critical, because they indicate enrollment in terms of the credit hours and tuition revenue generated by students.

SOU’s full-time equivalent enrollment increased by just over 2 percent this fall, to 4,383 students – 90 more than a year ago. The university’s actual headcount – the total number of full- and part-time students enrolled – rose by just under 1 percent, to 6,139. That represents an increase of 51 students.

“These enrollment figures are a reflection of the upward trajectory SOU is experiencing,” said Linda Schott, the university’s president. “The trend across the country is for declining college enrollment. We are focused on preparing our students for a changing future, and on providing the knowledge and skills that will help them succeed.

“We are seeing increases this fall in the number of new, first-year students, retention of last year’s first-year students and overall retention of returning students. That indicates our efforts to attract students and provide the services they need are producing results.”

SOU has increased its institutional aid budget – financial aid for students who are the least able to afford higher education costs – to $4 million, from the $3.5 million that was budgeted previously. The university has also focused on its student success programs and expanded efforts to steer eligible students toward cost-saving options such as those that enable students to attain a college degree in three years.

“Our enrollment increase is due in large part to the strategic directions we put into place a couple years ago, regarding recruitment and retention,” SOU Provost Susan Walsh said. “We created several programs and initiatives that are intended to appeal to resident and nontraditional students. I really credit our enrollment and admissions team for the good work they’ve done.”

Data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center showed that college enrollment across the U.S. fell by 1.4 percent in 2016, continuing a slide that began four years earlier. The nonprofit research center projected earlier this year that the nationwide enrollment decline would continue in 2017.

Total enrollment at Oregon’s seven public universities declined this year by six-tenths of 1 percent in full-time equivalent students and increased by less than one-tenth of 1 percent in total headcount of full- and part-time students. (Enrollment figures for the individual universities are available online.)

-SOU-

About Southern Oregon University
Southern Oregon University provides outstanding student experiences, valued degrees, and successful graduates. SOU is known for excellence in faculty, intellectual creativity and rigor, quality and innovation in connected learning programs, and the educational benefits of its unique geographic location. SOU was the first university in Oregon—and one of the first in the nation—to offset 100 percent of its energy use with clean, renewable power. It is the first university in the nation to balance 100 percent of its water consumption. Visit sou.edu.

Healthcare Administration Program approved for SOU

NEWS RELEASE (available online at https://goo.gl/cK7eFH)

(Ashland, Ore.) — Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission approved a new bachelor’s degree program on Thursday that will prepare students at Southern Oregon University for a variety of careers in health care – the region’s largest and fastest-growing job sector.

SOU’s new Healthcare Administration Program will be offered to students beginning in winter term of the coming academic year. Program coordinator Craig Switzler said he expects an initial cohort of about 10 students, and for the program to eventually grow to between 30 and 50 students.

“I’ve already been approached by about a half-dozen students,” he said.

The program will prepare students for management, rather than patient-care positions, in the health care industry. The Oregon Employment Department projects that over the next five years, there will be nearly 1,500 openings in southern Oregon for health care management positions that require bachelor’s or advanced degrees.

The SOU program will be available to incoming freshmen, current undergraduates who haven’t settled on a major and working professionals looking for additional skillsets.

Those who enter the program may focus on any of three health care-related concentrations. A personnel management track will emphasize human resources in the health care industry; a community health concentration will explore how group or community health care is provided, maintained and improved; and a data analytics path will prepare students to analyze and interpret data for improving health care systems.

The overall program will provide students a foundation in health care, including knowledge of the industry’s terminology, ethics and safety, data management standards and communication skills.

The interdisciplinary program will include courses from SOU’s Health and Physical Education, Business, Communications, Psychology, Sociology and Biology departments. A new philosophy course will be part of the curriculum, and each student will also complete a capstone project and practicum class prior to graduation.

“The classes are already here on campus,” said Switzler, who developed a proposal for the program after he was hired at SOU three years ago as an athletic trainer.

The proposal has gained traction over the past year, and has been endorsed by various SOU committees, the university’s Board of Trustees and the state universities’ Provosts Council. The Higher Education Coordinating Commission approved the program unanimously on Thursday.

There is a handful of similar undergraduate and graduate programs in health care administration or management at other public and private universities in Oregon.

More information about the SOU program is available on its website, at sou.edu/hca.

-SOU-

About Southern Oregon University
Southern Oregon University provides outstanding student experiences, valued degrees, and successful graduates. SOU is known for excellence in faculty, intellectual creativity and rigor, quality and innovation in connected learning programs, and the educational benefits of its unique geographic location. SOU was the first university in Oregon—and one of the first in the nation—to offset 100 percent of its energy use with clean, renewable power. It is the first university in the nation to balance 100 percent of its water consumption. Visit sou.edu.

State commission approves SOU tuition rate

NEWS RELEASE (available online at https://goo.gl/1mMLmn)

(Ashland, Ore.) — Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission acknowledged Southern Oregon University’s collaboration, momentum and attention to the overall best interests of students by voting today to accept 2017-18 tuition rates adopted last month by the SOU Board of Trustees.

“I truly appreciate the ability of HECC members to grasp the nuances of our recent budget- and tuition-setting process, and to understand the swell of energy and passion on our campus,” said SOU President Linda Schott, who was in Salem to present the university’s tuition plan to commissioners.

HECC members approved the 12 percent tuition increase that SOU’s Board of Trustees unanimously adopted on April 21. The HECC vote finalizes a months-long process by students, staff, faculty members and others to work collaboratively through a budget cycle that was deeply affected by the state’s $1.4 to $1.6 billion funding shortfall.

The HECC must approve tuition increases above 5 percent for any of the state’s seven public universities. Gov. Kate Brown laid out strict criteria that the universities had to meet this year as justification for increases over 5 percent, and the commission approved rates today for SOU, OIT and WOU. Tuition rates for PSU and UO did not receive sufficient votes for approval, and OSU and EOU did not require HECC approval for tuition increases below 5 percent.

SOU’s tuition has risen by an average of 2.5 percent annually over the past four years, and the university currently operates on less revenue than any other public university in Oregon, on a per-student basis. SOU’s tuition increase will result in an additional $18.17 per credit hour for SOU students who are Oregon residents, and similar increases for non-residents.

Students from various universities dominated the public comment session at Thursday’s HECC meeting. Some opposed their universities’ tuition increases and others spoke in favor of the rates, recognizing that deep cuts in programs would cause more damage than higher tuition.

President Schott acknowledged that SOU’s increase will cause difficulties for some students, and said the university has tried to address some of those concerns by offsetting the tuition increase with $500,000 in additional institutional aid for students least able to afford the increased cost. The university will also expand efforts to steer eligible students toward cost-saving options such as programs that allow students to graduate in three years instead of four.

“There is little to celebrate in today’s vote,” Schott said. “We have heard our students – those who have spoken against the tuition increase and those who have reluctantly acknowledged that it is the lesser of two evils. This tuition rate enables us to continue planning an efficient, innovative and successful future for SOU, its students and our community.”

SOU has made $14 million in cuts over the past three years as part of its retrenchment process. Any additional cuts would significantly erode the university’s academic and student support programs.

Tuition at SOU will remain among the lowest of Oregon’s seven public universities. The overall cost of attendance – a combination of tuition, student fees and housing – will go up by about 5.8 percent.

-SOU-

About Southern Oregon University
As a public liberal arts university, SOU focuses on student learning, accessibility and civic engagement that enriches both the community and bioregion. The university is recognized for fostering intellectual creativity, for quality and innovation in its connected learning programs, and for the educational benefits of its unique geographic location. SOU was the first university in Oregon—and one of the first in the nation—to offset 100 percent of its energy use with clean, renewable power, and it is the first university in the nation to balance 100% of its water consumption. Visit sou.edu.