SOU’s Enrollment Spike Recedes, large graduating classes lower overall headcount

Fall 2013 Enrollment Down 5%, reflecting national trends of lower post-recession college attendance

(Ashland, Ore.) –As the economy turns up, Southern Oregon University’s enrollment numbers are turning down, following a national trend at many universities. SOU headcount is 6,140 this fall, 5.3% less than the previous year, and 8.9% less than fall 2011, SOU’s record enrollment year. 2011’s enrollment was a 32% spike from 2009.

SOU’s numbers follow a trend at Oregon’s other public regional universities and community colleges, and at many campuses across the country. These institutions serve growing numbers of low- and moderate-income students whose families have been hard hit during the recession, making it harder to go to college or stay there. SOU also saw its two largest-ever graduating classes exit in 2011 and 2012, and enter the work force.

The drop in enrollment comes at a time when SOU is increasingly dependent on student tuition to offset a steady decline in state support. Twenty years ago tuition provided just 30% of education costs, and state support supplied most of the balance. Today 70% of the cost of education is covered by students and their families.

SOU President Mary Cullinan notes that “Lack of state support for public higher education puts the burden on students. Although SOU remains one of the most affordable universities in Oregon, students still struggle with the cost.  Many are working several part-time jobs. As the employment picture improves,” she adds, “significant numbers of students are increasing their work hours and not enrolling in university classes.”

Oregon’s regional campuses are the most sensitive to economic downturns. 72% of SOU’s students receive financial aid, and more than 60% of students who receive financial aid are eligible for federal Pell grants to low income families.

The US Census Bureau reported in September that the demographic group showing the largest decrease on college campuses is adults 25 and older.

Although most SOU enrollment categories were down, some continued to go up:

  • Headcount is 6,140, 341 students or 5.3% less than 2012.
  • Full Time Equivalent (FTE) enrollment is 4,351, or 4.9% less than 2012.
  • New freshmen enrollment is down 6.7% and new transfer enrollment is down 1.1%. Rogue Community College transfer enrollment is down 17.7%.
  • Although total California enrollment is down 19 students or 2.0%, new California freshmen and California transfers were both up slightly.
  • Latino enrollment continues to grow, up 5.8% from fall 2012.
  • Freshmen retention decreased slightly from the year before.
  • Foreign student enrollment is up 22 students or 16.1%. The biggest increase is students from South Korea.

SOU Ten-Year Fall Enrollment History

sou-enrollmentAbout Southern Oregon University 
As the public liberal arts university of the West, Southern Oregon University 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

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