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Colleges pivot to meet students as enrollment drops

Nationally, some programs ending after low enrollment
Baldwin Wallace
Posted at 5:04 PM, Jan 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-11 09:44:52-05

CLEVELAND — Fewer people are enrolling in college programs with the highest demand, like education and healthcare-focused fields.

The dropping enrollment could mean big gaps in hiring in the next five years, but one Northeast Ohio university is adapting to student needs.

"So that's pretty important to me, students, future students where they are,said Scott Schulz. He watches enrollment numbers at Baldwin Wallace University. He knows even though this year was different than the last few — "we actually had our largest first year class since 2015 came in this last fall," he says — an enrollment cliff is coming.

"The change, the uncertainty, the stress," are all reasons why potential students are staying out of college and in-demand programs, Schulz said.

Those programs that need graduates are seeing shrinking enrollment across the country. That is why Baldwin Wallace University is looking into flexible learning and fast-track programs. 

"The nature of the work is so stressful and all-encompassing as it is," Schulz said. "So, you've got to be able to try to meet them where they are."

Nationally, some teaching programs have ended. Oklahoma City University has three students in its elementary education program. A decade long trend of lower enrollment in education courses is starting to have an impact in Ohio.

"This created some challenges, especially in science, math, special education and in urban areas and rural poor areas," said Randy Gardner, the Chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education.

That's why the state launched a $5.2 million program last week to help shore up support for teaching programs in the state.

"We're on our way to hopefully regain the respect that the teaching profession deserves and build those numbers so that we can adequately prepare our young people in the future," Gardner said.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates 270,000 teachers will leave schools between 2016 and 2026.