Area colleges seeing surge in students

Job demands lead to bigger freshman classes despite rising tuition.

Despite increases in tuition, virtually every university in the Dayton area will see a boost in enrollment this fall, and the University of Dayton is expecting a freshman class that is among the five largest in its 162-year history.

The surge in enrollment points to the increasing importance being placed on a college education in today’s job market, along with tuition costs that remain competitive with other colleges in the nation.

Enrollment at local universities is up 8.4 percent over the previous fall term, based on students who committed by the national May 1 deadline.

“Higher education is an industry in our region that has a great concentration of jobs and contributes a lot to the economy, so it’s important that they’re not struggling,” said Sean Creighton, executive director of the Southwestern Ohio Council for Higher Education. The council estimates the regional economic impact at $3 billion.

Incoming freshmen nationwide had a May 1 postmark deadline to commit to which university they would attend and pay a deposit.

More than 4,000 incoming freshmen have said they will attend UD, Miami University and Cedarville University, as well as Wright State University, which continues reviewing applications as they arrive throughout the summer.

“That’s on top of several years of robust increases, so that’s pretty great that they’re sustaining the level of enrollment that they experienced during the recession,” Creighton said.

Ohio State University has accepted 16,469 students for the fall and hopes to have an incoming class of 6,900, according to spokeswoman Amy Murray. OSU will not count the number of committed students until next week.

Nationwide, more young adults are pursing a college degree right out of high school, up to 70 percent in 2009 from 62 percent in 2001, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Valuing college education

Eight out of 10 adults younger than 35 believe a college degree is more important now than it was a generation ago — even as 73 percent of them say students graduate with more debt than they can manage, according to The Institute for College Access and Success.

The average four-year Ohio college student graduates with nearly $27,000 in debt, according to Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who has co-sponsored a bill to keep the federal student loan interest rate at 3.4 percent. The majority of Senate Democrats have written a version of the bill paid for by raising Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes on high-income owners of some privately owned companies, which GOP senators oppose.

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