AU enrollment rises despite the looming pandemic


Enrollment numbers are rising at Ashland University, even with the COVID-19 pandemic still looming. This year, the university’s goal for total number of traditional undergraduate students was 509. AU achieved 485 first-year and 93 transfer students. This was an 11.1 percent jump from last year’s enrollment.
Keith Ramsdell, Vice President for Enrollment Management and Marketing at Ashland, recognizes several different aspects for Ashland’s increase in enrollment. The first one being that the university was unable to recruit new students at high school or community college visits within the past year due to the pandemic.
“Between high school visits, and college community college visits, at that point we hadn’t been able to visit a campus in a year and a half,” Ramsdell said. “It was a real challenge to do our recruitment the way that we’ve historically done it.”
Those in charge of Ashland’s enrollment management met with the Board of Trustees last week on why they did not meet their exact goal, although they came incredibly close. They discussed another crucial turning point in recruiting new students, which was the COVID-19 Delta variant taking a toll during the summer months.
“We were well on our way,” said Ramsdell.
“We were tracking very well through late spring, early summer, and then when the COVID Delta variant hit in July, like the first week of July, it basically took all the wind out of our sails. Traditional undergrads, graduates, transfers, I mean, all of the numbers suddenly just came to a screeching halt.”
Ashland was not the only private university in Ohio who’s enrollment numbers were affected by the pandemic this year.
Data presented by the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Ohio showed that numerous other universities in the state did not achieve their enrollment goals.
The data from AICUO stated that 16 private universities within the state that reported their enrollment numbers had decreased. Aultman College and the Mount Carmel College of Nursing had the largest decreases in enrollment with 12 less students enrolled at Aultman and 31 less at Mount Carmel.
14 of these private schools, including Ashland, had an increase. Ohio Northern University had 159 new students enroll this fall and Kenyon College had 112 more students.
Back at Ashland, there was an unexpected bright spot in the 2021-2022 enrollment numbers,
which was the increase in diversity among the first-year and transfer students.
“More than 12 percent of our incoming freshmen class are students of color,” said Ramsdell. “For a rural campus, we’re very pleased with that number. Although I will also add to that, and say that we know that there are additional things that we can and will be doing in the year ahead, to help to increase that diversity on campus.”
The Collegian and AU-Live will be doing a follow-up story with Keith Ramsdell and Hugh Howard in the spring to learn more about the second semester’s numbers.