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Enrollment numbers slightly up at SOU

ASHLAND — The number of students attending Southern Oregon University this fall term is up just a smidgen — 12 students in all — compared with 2014 numbers. But more significant increases were seen in several student sub-categories, including incoming freshmen. 

SOU officials reported fall enrollment climbed to 6,215 students for the fall 2015 quarter, two-tenths of a percent up from fall 2014's count of 6,203. But small or not, SOU President Roy Saigo said in a prepared statement that it was a welcome surprise.

"Though modest, this increase was achieved while we are operating under a retrenchment plan that projected an enrollment decline this year, so we are thrilled to see enrollment go up for the second year in a row," Saigo said.

A key factor in the increase was the number of freshman students in this year's class, university spokesman Ryan Brown said. That number jumped from 713 in fall 2014 to 834 in fall 2015 — an increase of nearly 17 percent. This year's freshman class is the largest in 12 years, university officials said. 

"It certainly speaks to the hard work of our staff in admissions and recruitment, and our faculty," Brown said. 

Other student populations to see significant increases include out-of-state students (a 7.4 percent increase to 1,909) and minority students including American Indians, Hispanics and African-Americans (a 7.3 percent increase to 1,287). 

"Certainly our admissions and recruitment folks are always working to get a mix of students that's beneficial to the university in terms of diversity, out-of-state tuition, (and) in-state tuition," Brown said, adding that the university plans to continue with the same recruiting strategies.

SOU also retained 72 percent of its fall 2014 freshman class and 76 percent of all undergraduates. 

The student body count was projected to decline in part because of SOU's budget balancing plan, called retrenchment, which reduced program majors, minors and staff positions. That plan should be fully implemented by June 30, 2017, Brown said.

Programs selected to be cut were targeted mostly because of low enrollment numbers. Majors on the chopping block include French and art history, while the physics program is suspended until further notice. Minors eliminated include professional writing, film techniques and photography. The plan also calls for cutting 13 full-time equivalent faculty positions. 

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.