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Ohio University plans to sell a satellite campus as college enrollment drops statewide

The Ohio University Alumni Gateway against a bright blue sky
Wikimedia Commons
Like colleges across Ohio, enrollment at Ohio University has declined over the past decade.

Ohio University’s board of trustees voted Friday to allow the university to sell one of its satellite campuses.

The Proctorville Center, located just across the Ohio River from Huntington, West Virginia, opened in 2007 with the goal of offering college courses at an accessible location.

But amid a statewide drop in college enrollment, the center has fewer and fewer students.

In a letter, University President Hugh Sherman said selling it is now in the school’s best interest.

Overall Ohio University student enrollment has fallen by more than 20 percent in the last decade, according to fall enrollment data collected by the university.

Enrollment on the school’s regional campuses has dropped even more – by nearly 50 percent since 2014.

But OU is not the only college in this position.

“The number of people who are graduating from high school has declined significantly."
Todd Jones, President of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Ohio

Ohio’s college enrollment decline

Ohio is among the top 10 states with the largest declines in college enrollment, according to data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

“It has been about a 9 percent drop in the five or six years after 2010, and we're going to see a similar drop starting in 2026-27 that will extend for about three years as well,” said Todd Jones, President of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Ohio.

Among public universities, the University of Akron and Wright State have had the steepest enrollment declines. Enrollment at the University of Akron is nearly half of what it was in 2012. Wright State’s enrollment dropped by almost 40 percent since then.

The reason behind the statewide decline is simple, Jones said. Ohio’s demographics are shifting.

“The number of people who are graduating from high school has declined significantly,” he said. “In fact, it declined very sharply in the first years after the turn of the decade [in 2010].”

As people in Ohio have fewer kids, the need for classroom space will naturally shrink.

But other factors are at play too.

The labor market is particularly tight right now. At the beginning of 2023, there were two job openings for every unemployed person, so, with or without a college education, most people could find work.

Additionally, online classes are growing in popularity. For many students who used to seek classes at regional or satellite campuses, digital options offer even more flexibility.

What’s in store for the Proctorville Center?

Ohio University's Proctorville Center, a red brick building with a green roof, in the springtime
Ohio University-Southern Facebook
The Ohio University Proctorville Center

As schools like Ohio University evaluate underused space, sales like the Proctorville Center could become more likely.

“One thing you have to remember is how did [these universities] get to where they were 10 years ago?” Jones asked. “The answer is many of them grew to be the size that they are. When you look farther back on the curve to the eighties and nineties, some of them have now returned to the size that they were at that time.”

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, he said.

OU will only sell the Proctorville Center to another educational institute, according to a spokesperson, and money from the sale will be used for student scholarships and grants.

“Programs can adjust in size without affecting the health of the institution,” Jones said. “And all of the colleges in Ohio have long term planning for what will be the size of the institution.”

Erin Gottsacker is a reporter for The Ohio Newsroom. She most recently reported for WXPR Public Radio in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.