“Many of the students now have parents who were college-educated and that is quite different than 30 years ago,” said David Hawkins, public policy director for the National Association for College Admission Counseling. “This is the most educated generation in United States history.”
In Fort Wayne the trend has been most pronounced at community and two-year colleges. Ivy Tech Community College, which also starts today, saw a 6.9 percent increase in enrollment from 2006 to 2007 and projects an increase this year. Statewide, Ivy Tech's enrollment was up 10.3 percent from 2006 to 2007.
“My guess is we'll be about 14 percent higher in the next two years,” said Chuck Lewton, the Fort Wayne campus' vice chancellor of student affairs. That would equal 1,049 more students than the 7,492 enrolled for the 2007-08 year.
Traditionally, college enrollment comes in waves, with sharply defined peaks and valleys. Some experts say what's happening now is a large peak brought about by the echo generation — the children of baby boomers — and enrollment will fall again, as it has in the past. Others say it will continue to rise because the value of higher education has changed.Why the increase? “There's not one specific thing. It's hard to explain it. People want that one thing and it's not that one thing,” Lewton said.
Thirty years ago job hunters might have planned to enter the workplace in a beginning position and work their way up. Not today.
“The state has been sending a very strong message that high school is not enough,” said Jack Dahl, associate vice chancellor for institutional research and planning at IPFW, where more moderate growth has been overshadowed by the introduction of on-campus housing that has proved so popular there has been a waiting list to get in. Gov. Mitch Daniels recently announced the details of a college scholarship program that would use Hoosier Lottery money to help students whose families earn less than $60,000 a year by offering them two years of free tuition at Ivy Tech or up to $6,000 at another Indiana public or private school.
“I think people have come to the realization to get a job in today's world you have to have some sort of education,” Lewton said.Numerous factors play into college choice: tuition, academics, campus and social life, financial aid. But the popularity of specialty and community colleges, where tuition can be a fraction of that at a traditional university, indicates cost may be the ultimate determining factor.
Taylor University Fort Wayne, where tuition is $21,164, experienced a 45 percent drop over the last five years in its on-campus enrollment — though its online programs became more popular during that time.
“I don't know what the future holds,” said Palmer Muntz, associate vice president for enrollment services. “This is a very uncertain time for college admissions.”
At the same time, Ivy Tech (where tuition is $2,930 for in-state students), Brown Mackie College and local business colleges saw their enrollment grow tremendously.
“We focus right into what your career is,” said Matt Wallace, Indiana Business College admissions director. He said he believes many IBC students feel that classes offered at liberal arts schools — think art appreciation — are a waste of time for someone working toward, say, a marketing degree.
At the University of Saint Francis, a traditional liberal arts school where enrollment is up 4.7 percent this year, many students are able to defray the cost of tuition with scholarships and through other means such as certain financial aid packages.More students bring more money, more buildings, more degree programs, more amenities.
That's the case at a majority of Fort Wayne's 11 college campuses. Ivy Tech has expanded its campus and its degree programs; IPFW is building a new student activities center. Fort Wayne's old commuter colleges - such as IPFW and Indiana Tech - are competing with their low-cost competitors by transforming themselves, building dorms in response to demand from students who want to stay close to home but get the traditional college experience.
Indiana Tech opened its newest dorm Sunday and is already over capacity, forced to put up some 20 students at the downtown Clarion Hotel, formerly the Holiday Inn. IPFW finished the second phase of its student housing project in 2007 and is already eyeing new construction. Saint Francis broke ground on its fifth residence hall July 30.Experts are torn on whether increasing enrollment can last, despite the local optimism.
Hawkins, of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, says traditional student enrollment will flatten as the boomer echo dies down. Nontraditional enrollment, however, will continue to rise, he said.
Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of the Web site finaid.org, “The SmartStudent Guide to Financial Aid,” disagreed, labeling this peak like previous ones, though both agreed there's no way to say for sure.
“I'm very curious to see what will happen,” Muntz said.These numbers reflect head count for each institution since the 2003-04 school year. Each school reports enrollment differently so some numbers may be first-day counts, while others are the end of the first semester. Calculations from year to year within one institution remain consistent, however.
over 1 year
|Ivy Tech, Fort Wayne||6,309||6,684||6,590||7,010||7,492||6.9%||18.8%|
|Ivy Tech, statewide||62,103||65,255||65,300||69,803||77,013||10.3%||24.0%|
|University of Saint Francis||1,834||1,884||2,003||2,039||2,135||4.7%||16.4%|
|Taylor University Fort Wayne*||645||587||950||975||969||-0.9%||50.2%|
|Concordia Theological Seminary||406||389||372||383||390||1.8%||-3.9%|
|Indiana Business College||n/a||220||n/a||n/a||450||n/a||104.6%|
|International Business College||544||533||614||684||685||0.1%||25.9%|
|Brown Mackie, Fort Wayne||465||575||546||798||1,009||26.4%||117.0%|
|Indiana Wesleyan, Fort Wayne||n/a||n/a||n/a||n/a||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|ITT Tech, Fort Wayne**||n/a||n/a||n/a||n/a||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Purdue, West Lafayette||44,693||45,129||45,810||46,799||47,754||2.0%||6.8%|
|University of Notre Dame||8,311||8,332||8,275||8,352||8,371||0.2%||0.7%|
|Ball State University||16,365||16,134||15,903||15,513||15,083||-2.8%||-7.8%|
|*Includes online numbers for a program which began in 2005.|
|**Denied request for enrollment numbers.|