DiBiasio: New student enrollment at ONU highest in 14 years

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Sep. 27—LIMA — New student enrollment at Ohio Northern University is at its highest point in 14 years.

The university saw overall enrollment increase by nearly 11% over the 2020-21 academic year, while first-year retention for the fall 2020 cohort of freshmen and new students was 87% — an indication that students are ready for in-person learning and campus life.

Roughly 3,100 students are enrolled at Ohio Northern today, including some 730 first-year students, the university reported Monday.

ONU President Dr. Daniel DiBiasio, who will retire from the university in 2022, attributed the trend in part to the resumption of in-person campus visits last summer.

"That gave us an opportunity to interact with families and students very early and to continue a relationship with them through the admissions process," said DiBiasio, who spoke Monday about the challenges facing higher education for the Lima Rotary Club.

The remnants of the Great Recession forced U.S. colleges and universities to reexamine cost structures and financial aid packages as fewer families were able to afford higher education, resulting in 1.5 million fewer students enrolling in higher education from 2015 to 2020, DiBiasio said.

ONU reduced and reset its tuition by 20% to 25% during the 2013-14 academic year, DiBiasio said.

The university also invested more in financial aid and conducted a 15-month academic and administrative review of its programs in 2019 to identify $9 million in cost savings and another $1 million in investments, he said.

The coronavirus pandemic created another "headwind," DiBiasio said, but ONU was still able to resume in-person classes last fall without "missing a single day of in-person instruction."

Some 80% of ONU students and 90% of fulltime faculty and staff are fully vaccinated, DiBiasio said, while unvaccinated faculty, staff and students are tested for coronavirus weekly.

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