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Oregon Universities See Decline In Oregonian Enrollees

April Ehrlich | JPR News
The Southern Oregon Admissions office counted fewer students enrolled in the Fall term at this time last year.

The Fall term started Monday at Southern Oregon University, which saw another decrease in student numbers.

SOU’s student headcount is down by 4 percent from this time last year.

Educators say this is part of a statewide trend, and multiple circumstances are at play, including high school graduation rates.

“We’d like to see graduation rates for Oregon high school students increase,” SOU Vice President Neil Woolf says. “We’re one of the lowest states in the U.S. for high school graduation rates.”

Woolf says fewer high school graduates means fewer Oregonians in college. Across Oregon public universities, the number of enrollees with state residency has declined by nearly 10 percent since 2011. Meanwhile, the number of non-residential enrollments has increased by 27 percent.

Woolf says student count decreases largely impact the university’s income, since most of its revenue comes from student tuition.

“The state used to provide about 67, 70 percent of our revenue,” Woolf says. “But in the past 7 to 8 years, that model has actually flipped. Now about 70 percent of the revenue comes from students instead of the state.”

Woolf says university administrators are considering various ways to make up for the loss, including tuition increases, cost cutting, and dipping into its reserves.

April Ehrlich is an editor and reporter at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Previously, she was a news host and reporter at Jefferson Public Radio.