OU’s numbers keep climbing
BY TOM BARRY
OU News Bureau
For 14 consecutive years, Oakland University has begun a fall semester with more students than it had the year before.
To maintain that growth, Oakland makes millions of dollars available in financial aid, has scrambled to meet housing demands and has developed a successful marketing campaign that includes television advertising.
The larger student population at Oakland has brought with it more students in need of financial aid.
Cindy L. Hermsen, OU’s financial aid director, said that lost benefits to families has been one the most important reasons for more financial aid.
“Employers formerly offered benefits that provided their employees with college tuition assistance for dependents,” Hermsen said. “The difficult economy has forced a lot of employers to eliminate these programs.”
She said the sagging Michigan economy struck colleges and universities with another blow three years ago when the state cut financial aid for students by 67 percent.
However, OU students need not worry about the availability of financial aid even though the student population has increased 6.6 percent since 2008 to 19,379.
“Oakland University has appropriated more money every single year, making sure that it is increasing the financial aid budget for the kind of scholarships and grants that OU provides for students,” Hermsen said.
More than 60 percent of Oakland students received some form of financial aid.
The university’s housing department has not been negatively affected by Michigan’s economy. In fact, the growing enrollment has resulted in a need for more housing.
“This was actually the first year that we have had students who had a request for housing that we could not honor because of the high demand,” said Jim Zentmeyer, director of university housing.
“In 2008, we opened the school year with 1,730 students living on campus,” he said. “In 2011, we opened up with 2,070. So we’ve seen a significant rise.”
Zentmeyer said students who remained on the waiting list were left with the choice of commuting from home or staying at the nearby Extended Stay Homestead Suites.
Oakland is taking small steps to correct the lack of space by renovating the first floor at Hamlin South, which was used as an international hostel floor.
“That will provide us 30 additional beds for next fall,” he said, “but we desperately need to grow beyond that number of beds for the demand that’s coming.”
The university has no immediate plans to build another dorm.
OU’s Office of Institutional Research and Assessment reports an increase in enrollment every year since 1959 except for five years between 1981 and 1998. Forty-six percent of of OU’s students come from Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.
To continue to attract students, the university has relied on aggressive marketing that has increased the number of applications to 14,637 in 2010 from 10,983 in 2008.
Most recently, Oakland launched an advertising campaign promoting the benefits of enrolling that included TV, radio, billboards, Web and print.
Melinda Booth, OU communications and marketing account manager, credited the success of its TV commercials during the past year with increasing enrollment, including the Don’t Miss the Tour spot. It features someone looking for the campus tour who is guided by groups of students simultaneously pointing him in the right direction. This ad aired throughout Michigan and was broadcast in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio during the NCAA Basketball Tournament in 2011.
Visitor turnout increased across the board and the turnout at the spring recruitment event was up more than 100 percent from last year. Booth said prospective students who actually visit the campus and take a tour are the ones who enroll.Tweet
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