Southern Oregon University President Roy Saigo received some good news when the Oregon University System released its 2014 fall enrollment reports recently.
Based on OUS projections, Southern Oregon was expected to see a slight decline in enrollment for the third year in a row, but instead enrollment went up 1.02 percent — that amounts to 63 students — according to the annual report released Tuesday.
SOU was one of only two campuses in the OUS system to record an increase, joining Oregon State University.
SOU’s 2014 fall enrollment was 6,203 students, up from 6,140 a year ago, representing the first increase in fall enrollment since 2011. Projected enrollment was 5,886.
“Students don’t decide to attend SOU by happenstance,” Saigo said. “These numbers reflect a lot of hard work by a lot of people. They also indicate that our programs and faculty are extremely well respected. Students want to learn from the best and leave with a degree that is valued. They know they will find both at SOU.”
Bolstering the slight increase was the largest freshmen class at Southern Oregon University in the last 10 years, a 10 percent increase to 1,028 students. The university also saw a healthy 8 percent rise in transfers, including 315 from community colleges, including 194 from Rogue Community College. Another 38 transfers came from one of OUS’s six other four-year institutions — University of Oregon (nine), Oregon State University (five), Eastern Oregon University (three), Oregon Institute of Technology (five), Portland State University (nine) and Western Oregon University (seven).
According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, overall postsecondary enrollments in 2013 decreased 1.5 percent from the previous fall. That included a 0.7 percent decrease at schools in the Western region.
According to Southern Oregon’s Ryan Brown, the head of community and media relations, the faculty and staff worked hard over the spring and summer to identify potential new students through a telephone and email campaign and later help them through the enrollment process.
“They worked with individual students with unique situations and obstacles that may have prevented them from enrolling,” he said. “Basically, we had to work with students to get over hurdles.”
Brown also credited SOU’s associate vice president for enrollment and retention, Lisa Garcia-Hanson.
“I think, obviously, it’s significant,” Brown said. “Any time that we’re growing, with quality students — because we didn’t lower our admission standards — it just means that we’re doing well and working hard. But now we have to certainly maintain the work that’s been done. We have a large class of freshmen and we want to make sure that they complete their degrees and leave SOU successfully with degrees in hand when they go out into the work force.”
The OUS report also included a demographic breakdown. The numbers paint a picture of a mostly white, predominantly female SOU student body with a large number of native Oregonians and a mean age in the mid-20s:
A little more than 52 percent of SOU students, or 3,252, are classified as white, with the next highest demographic being “race and ethnicity unknown” with 1,713 students (28 percent). Also attending SOU are 478 “Hispanics of any race,” 124 Asians, 116 students classified as “black or African American” and 274 classified as “two or more races.”
Southern Oregon’s female students make up 57.7 percent of the student body, outnumbering the men, 3,583 to 2,483.
Roughly 71 percent of SOU students, or 4,395, hail from Oregon, including 2,700 (44 percent) from Jackson County. Of the 1,808 students who came to SOU from outside Oregon, 1,019 (16 percent) are from California.
The mean age of SOU’s 4,400 undergraduate students is 25, while the mean age of graduate students is 35. The mean age of the entire student body is 26.7.
Elsewhere, Oregon State University increased increased its student count by 4 percent while the University of Oregon declined by 1 percent. Oregon State now has just over 30,000 students, including its Bend campus and online enrollment — for its biggest student body in school history. The University of Oregon has 24,181 students.
Among the smaller universities, Eastern Oregon showed a 12 percent decline over the previous fall, while Western Oregon recorded a 2.1 percent drop. Oregon Tech in Klamath Falls dropped by 3.2 percent.
Joe Zavala is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at 541-776-4469.