September 14, 2015

University reaches historic freshman enrollment figures

By Abbey White

Cleveland State University has reached a major milestone this fall as it welcomes the largest freshman class in its 50-year history.

Early figures reported that the first day saw more than 1,850 new students attending on-campus classes. That number follows a recent uptrend for the university.

“New freshman enrollment has increased substantially in the past five or six years,” said Lee Furbeck, director of Cleveland State’s Undergraduate Admissions. “The number of new freshman on campus has increased every year starting in 2009. New undergraduate enrollment grew 23 percent between 2009 and 2013.”

The first time that the number of new freshman was larger than the number of transfer students admitted to the school also occurred in 2013.

The achievement may come as a slight shock to some in light of the university’s 2014 enrollment woes. Last fall saw one of the school’s lowest freshman enrollment numbers in recent history.

Furbeck attributes that decline to other universities’ growing interest in Cleveland as a place to recruit new students.

“Other colleges are using the Cleveland area to seek out new students,” she said. “Some of that increased competition contributed to the dip.”

Despite the more aggressive regional recruitment environment, Cleveland State is staying competitive through proactive admission approaches, and providing opportunities and experiences that other colleges can’t.

In addition to the more traditional campus visits and one-on-one meetings with enrollment representatives, the university holds exciting on-campus events for prospective students, regularly visits area high schools to speak with students directly, and even plays host to middle school groups to help illustrate the importance of a higher education.

The latter is an important part of the recruitment process, especially for first-generation college students and those typically underrepresented in collegiate environments.

The work of Furbeck and the rest of the admissions office is paying off.

Not only has the average GPA and test scores of enrolled students continued to increase, but the class of 2019 will see more than 30 percent of its incoming freshman identify as being from a multicultural background. As a result, not only does this year mark the university’s largest class, but the most diverse as well.

That growing interest in and eventual attendance at the university by so many is influenced by quite a few things, according to Furbeck. Perhaps most consistently, she said, is the university’s ability to sell and deliver on its image.

“We have done a good job of communicating our message what we’re all about,” she said. “In terms of the engaged learning and urban setting.”

With the addition of a new engineering building and nursing school, as well as increasing honors and opportunities for students interested in the practical and social sciences, the university’s growth has a lot to do with its expanding infrastructure and academic competitiveness, according to Furbeck.

Of the declared interests from the freshman class, most are science oriented. That includes nursing and health careers, as well as science and business.

Proximity to relative postgraduate opportunities also has a major impact on a student’s decision to attend.

“A high number of students who do internships here find them turning into jobs. It’s one of the things that makes Cleveland State so enticing to prospective students,” Lee said.

While there are many positive benefits to the enrollment increase -- including a stronger contribution to the downtown economy and the opportunity to prepare even more students for degreed jobs, the campus is already dealing with some pitfalls of a higher student concentration.

It was reported that parking passes had completely sold out before the start of term. The university also had to be more selective in housing offers, opting to provide room and board to students who had the utmost need. There is also perhaps the less thought about class capacity issue.

Outside of these challenges and despite last fall’s student turnout, according to Furbeck, Cleveland State University is steadily proving itself as a premiere urban institution for students.

“You’d be surprised by how many people have a misunderstanding of what Cleveland State is,” Furbeck said. “Especially those who don’t come downtown a lot and even people whose parents once attended. We are different than we were years ago, so when they come down to the campus, they are always surprised by what they see.”


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