Johnson County students are enrolling more often at a Columbus campus, representing the fastest- growing group of students at the regional university.
Enrollment at Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus has increased about 11 percent during the past five years, but enrollment from Johnson County residents is outpacing that growth at 47 percent.
University officials and local high school counselors think students are turning to the regional campus more often to continue their education close to home and at a lower cost than moving to a state or private university. The university also has been a part of more college fairs and events in local schools to attract more students.
Enrollment by Johnson County residents increased between 2008 and 2009 and again from 2010 to 2011. As of 2012, Johnson County residents make up about 10 percent of the campus’ total enrollment of about 1,700 students, said Susan Sullivan, director of the Office of Communication and Marketing.
Johnson County’s growth is the highest among any county at the university since 2008.
Bartholomew County, which boasts the highest number of enrollments at 686, increased nearly 12 percent since 2008, while Jennings County increased about 21 percent.
Recruitment officers have attended local college fairs and worked to keep in contact with Johnson County high schools, which also helped drive the increase in enrollment, Sullivan said.
Students also are thinking more about college costs when selecting a college, which is one of the main factors for the growth at the Columbus campus, where tuition is lower than some other state universities, Sullivan said.
Part of the cost savings also comes from being able to live at home while attending college.
The university has no student housing, which means all of its students commute to class, Sullivan said.
The average college student has $27,000 or $28,000 in student debt when he graduates, she said.
“I think students are beginning to realize that taking out excessive amounts of student loans may not be the way they want to start off their careers after college,” she said.
Debt is a common concern local counselors are hearing from students, and a reason why some consider taking classes at a regional campus.
“It’s been a gradual change for kids who never really cared or noticed before, but there is so much press about debt. Kids are really concerned about that,” said Jan Henderson, a counselor at Franklin Community High School.
Commuting also allows a student to live at home and continue working their current jobs while attending class.
“The two main reasons a lot of our kids choose IUPUC are because it is very close to home, they can drive there in 15 minutes, and the price savings.
Many of them get established in their part-time jobs here in their junior or senior year, then they’re able to hang onto those jobs,” said Traci Foltz, counselor at Edinburgh Community High School.
Students also are looking for a campus with a wide selection of majors, Indian Creek High School counselor Aubrei Teeter said.
The Columbus campus offers nine bachelor’s degree programs, and students can start six other degree programs and then transfer to IUPUI later to finish.
Some students also start at the Columbus campus and intend to transfer to a larger state college, such as Indiana University or Purdue University, and keep their credits, Sullivan said.
Students also start at Ivy Tech Community College in Columbus and earn a two-year degree, before transferring to IUPUC to complete a four-year degree, Foltz said.