While state agencies and K-12 public schools cope with across- the-board budget reductions, Oklahoma's public colleges and universities are reporting increased enrollment this spring, led by a surge in new freshmen and in the total head count at community colleges.
Total enrollment for the spring semester across the state totaled 178,053 students, up 6.8 percent, or 11,269, from spring 2009.
The number of first-time freshmen this spring increased 31.7 percent from a year earlier, according to the spring 2010 report from the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. The colleges and universities combined for 10,622 first-time freshmen this spring, up 2,558 students from spring 2009.
Oklahoma's 12 community colleges recorded the largest jump in first-time freshmen, increasing 35 percent to 9,057 from 6,709 a year earlier. At the state's research universities, new freshmen increased 10.3 percent to 139 from 126, and regional universities increased 15.9 percent to 1,426 first-time freshmen from 1,230.
"These increased enrollment numbers are a leading indicator of the value placed on earning a college degree by students and parents in our state," said Chancellor Glen D. Johnson. "It is widely recognized that a college degree is essential to a student's financial and career success, and it remains the driving force behind our state's economic recovery."
Community colleges also led the way in the total enrollment increase. Seven of the 12 community colleges reported enrollment increases of 10 percent or more with the overall increase 11.5 percent, or 7,580 students.
Oklahoma City Community College reported record enrollment for the semester with an increase of 11 percent.
"We continue to see consistent enrollment growth each semester," said Jon Horinek, OCCC recruitment and admissions director.
In OCCC's 37 years, the school has recorded similar increases in enrollment - usually during times of economic woes. The college has been expanding to meet anticipated growth.
Last year, OCCC opened a new Health Professions Center, which was constructed because of increasing enrollment by nursing and other health students. The building doubled the class size for the nursing program, which was normally restricted to 200 students.
Enrollment this spring at Tulsa Community College increased 2,002 students from a year earlier to 18,600 students. …