As colleges are gearing up to start the school year, thousands of Oklahoma students will soon begin or return to their studies.
So who is going to college in Oklahoma?
The Frontier analyzed data on enrollment trends to find how many people are going, who they are, and what high schools are sending the most students.
(Hover over tables for detailed numbers)
Enrollment numbers have fluctuated, and in recent years, they’ve declined.
“System wide, we had a slight decline in enrollment since the recession ended that we had, we had record enrollments during the recession,” said Tony Hutchison, Strategic Planning, Analysis and Workforce and Economic Development for the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.
“And that’s just typical around the country, and that’s primarily because when there’s a recession two-year college enrollments swell because so many adults go back to school and even kids coming out of high school that maybe weren’t planning to go to college go to college because there’s no jobs.”
Enrollment hit a historic peak during the recession, Hutchison said.
In the 2011-2012 academic year, 256,213 people enrolled in colleges, according to Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education data.
But stretching to the 2015-2016 period, enrollment has been on a slight decline.
“We’re down slightly, although that’s systemwide and that’s primarily because the two-years, the big two years — Tulsa Community College and OKC Community College — are down somewhat,” Hutchison said. “So regional universities are relatively flat, although there’s a little bit of disparity among them. But as a tier, they’re flat.”
Meanwhile, enrollment numbers at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University are up, Hutchison said.
“They’re growing, and growing strong, which is sort of interesting in that there’s so much concern at the Legislature about, you know, the tuition is too high,” he said. “Well, the most expensive ones are the ones that are growing the most.”
Part of that, Hutchison said, might be because universities with big engineering in business schools draw employers.
Racial disparity shrinking
Another takeaway from the data: The racial disparity in enrollment is shrinking.
During the 2010-2011 school year, 175,341 white students enrolled in state colleges and 107,545 minority students enrolled — a difference of 67,796 between the two groups.
Fast forward to the 2015-2016 academic year, the difference has shrunk to 35,926.
The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education working closely with Oklahoma tribes might contribute to further closing that gap, Hutchison said.
“(Tribes) have put in a lot of money into education policy, scholarships,” he said. “So the Choctaws, the Chickasaws, the Cherokees … they all have education coordinators, they have programs. … So that’s kind of a bright spot I would say, at least for trends for the future.”
Another change in enrollment demographics?
“Well, females as a percent of college enrollment is up significantly,” Hutchison said. “As late as 20 years ago, men were more than 55 percent of college students and now it’s flipped completely over.”
In the 2015-2016 year, women made up 56 percent of college enrollment.
College enrollment by high school
The Frontier also looked at which Oklahoma high schools send the most students to college immediately after college or within the academic year of students graduating. The data comes from 2015, which is the most recent available.
A full list of high schools can be found here.
“We like people to look in, we do really encourage people to look at this (data) and study it more because we, you know, we’re doing everything we can to try to help students on the academic preparation side while they’re in high school,” Hutchison said.
“We’re trying to do things differently in colleges to help support them through tutoring and advising and better pathways in terms of trying to find out what their niche is in life, but also financial aid.”