Enrollment growth slows at Oregon universities

Enrollment growth slows at Oregon universities following 4 years of rapid expansion

Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Enrollment in Oregon's public universities has hit an all-time high, but the growth rate has slowed after four years of spikes, according to data released Thursday by the Oregon University System.

More than 101,000 students enrolled at eight campuses this fall, an increase of 1 percent over last year. The growth came almost exclusively from Oregon State University's Corvallis campus, which added 1,400 students. University of Oregon had the next-largest growth, adding 144.

Four campuses shrank, led by Southern Oregon University, which has 263 fewer students this year. Portland State was down 227 but remained Oregon's largest university.

Oregon's universities saw enrollment explode in recent years as students sought refuge from the Great Recession, growing by 3.5 percent last year and more than 5 percent in each of the three years before that. This year's 1.1 percent growth rate is the lowest since 2006, when enrollment was essentially flat.

Economic improvements have probably contributed to this year's lower growth, said Bob Kieran, associate vice chancellor for institutional research at the Oregon University System. The number of graduate students fell nearly 2 percent this year.

The number of seniors graduating from Oregon high schools has also plateaued, Kieran said.

"Our five-year growth is at 23.3 percent, just about the size of another major university," Kieran said. "So we have had unusually strong growth. If you look at five year growth periods over the last 40 or 50 years, they're not usually in that ballpark. They're usually much smaller."

Oregon State University's substantial growth came largely from new nonresident and international students, along with expansion of its online classes, university officials said.

Oregon Institute of Technology added 90 students and Oregon State's new Cascades campus in Bend added 37, boosting its total enrollment to 801 students. Eastern Oregon University shrank by 90 students and Western by 30.

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