Students travel to and from class at Ball State.  (Photo: Jordan Kartholl/The Star Press)
Students travel to and from class at Ball State. (Photo: Jordan Kartholl/The Star Press)
MUNCIE — Ball State University's on-campus enrollment and off-campus enrollment are trending in the opposite directions — off-campus (primarily online) is up, and on-campus is down.

The same thing is happening at Indiana State University, while Purdue University was unable to provide The Star Press a breakdown of its overall enrollment.

Indiana University says its online enrollment is increasing, but not as much as Ball State's.

BSU explains that it is responding to the slide in the number of on-campus students by substantially increasing the number of online students, which is why The Chronicle of Higher Education ranks Ball State as the fourth-fastest-growing school overall (on-campus and off-campus combined) in the Mid-American Conference.

This fall, BSU's on-campus enrollment, which the university defines as students taking at least one class on campus, dropped to 15,969, or 6 percent less than the 17,005 on-campus students enrolled five years ago.

Meanwhile, off-campus enrollment has jumped 43 percent since 2015, from 4,594 to 6,572.

In contrast, the 15,969 Ball State students on campus this fall are the lowest number in at least 20 years and the first time during those two decades that it fell below 16,000. Peak enrollment during the period reached 18,310, in 2003.

" … it is the lowest in the last 20 years, but not off much compared to some years," Kay Bales, the university's vice president for enrollment, told The Star Press. It's certainly not the case that college students no longer want to study on campus, she says: "This notion is refuted when you consider the size of this year’s freshman class (a record 4,034 on campus, eclipsing the record of 4,006 set in 1997).

Elsewhere, total enrollment at Purdue's main campus increased from 38,770 to 44,551, or nearly 15 percent, between 2014 and 2019. But the school couldn't say whether that includes any fully online students.

"Our enrollment people say … they don’t have a truly reliable way to look at the on/off campus thing," Purdue spokesman Tim Doty told The Star Press. "We have no dual credit students on the West Lafayette campus, and only a handful of online students are being counted at this point."

Ball State's total enrollment includes on-campus and off-campus students. The largest majority of off-campus is online students but also includes students at the Fishers Center for Academic and Economic Innovation as well as some high school students taking dual credit courses in their high school or online.
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