Students share why they leave nearby college towns for Edinboro

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017 at 5:17 PM

A 75-mile radius houses three universities within the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), with Edinboro, Slippery Rock and Clarion all battling over the locals donning high school graduation caps at the conclusion of each school year.

In this first part of The Spectator’s multi-week look into Edinboro’s financial, academic and enrollment standing, we analyzed both the amount of students in the state system who stay within their home county to attend college, and we spoke to individual students regarding their decision to leave home and travel to Edinboro.

According to a presentation by Edinboro University President H. Fred Walker on Feb. 16, Edinboro enrollment has decreased 17.2 percent, from 7,462 students in Fall 2012 to 6,181 students in Fall 2016.

Despite these potentially troubling times, students from other counties across the state are still choosing Edinboro over their native college campuses.

Senior Rachael Troutman said that in her college search, Edinboro stood out to her the most. She said that representatives of the university assured her she would be able to major in both mathematics and English, despite the two fields’ perceived differences.

“Since I started out as a secondary education, the accreditation (NCATE) seemed pretty impressive,” said Troutman. “Edinboro was more affordable and the enclosed campus in a rural area provided a safe and uplifting atmosphere.”

Troutman said Edinboro has given her various opportunities to allow her to grow as a person and expand her knowledge.

“Through the fulfilling challenges from my mathematics classes, I learned to appreciate the complexity and depth involved with each class. From this and my experiences as a tutor, I developed a desire to attend graduate school in order to pursue more advanced mathematics,” said Troutman.

When asked if she could choose a college again, would she choose Edinboro, she said, “without a doubt, Edinboro was the right choice.”

Walker said the tuition for one academic year at Edinboro costs approximately $26,038. Meanwhile, according to Slippery Rock University’s website, as of the 2015-16 academic year, tuition costs $23,363 for an in-state resident.

Senior Logan Bell is from Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania, but chose Edinboro for a number of reasons.

“When I visited the school (Edinboro), which I did twice, I had great experiences both times,” said Bell. “The first time I came was to come and see the campus and get a tour. The second time I came was to talk to the head of the history department to figure out if I wanted to major in history.

“Dr. Jenrette was polite, knowledgeable and gave me information about what jobs I could get with that major.”

Bell also said he liked Edinboro because the campus isn’t too big or too small. Additionally, it is about an hour away from his hometown, “which was a good distance that I could go home whenever I needed to, but it was far enough that my parents wouldn’t try to bother me too much.”

Once Bell found out that the education program at Edinboro was a nationally accredited program, he decided Edinboro was the school for him.

“The activities, organizations and people I have met at Edinboro helped me to come out of my shell and get involved. I feel prepared for my career,” Bell said.

He continued: “Edinboro has been a great choice for me. I have even considered coming back to the school to get my master’s degree.”

Sophomore Miranda Groft said when she first visited Edinboro with her friend, she wasn’t really interested in the campus beforehand.

“I came to an open house and fell in love with the positive people here and the very welcoming environment,” said Groft. “I also loved that my program, psychology, was pretty well known and very involved in research and service projects.” 

Groft grew up about a half an hour away from Clarion University with a class of 54 students. Over half of her high school graduating class was enrolled at Clarion before graduation.

Groft said: “I didn’t apply there or even visit. I was ready to break out of my small hometown and start my own adventure somewhere new.”

She said that she doesn’t regret coming to Edinboro over Clarion because, “I would not have had the opportunity to live away from home and get to know a whole new group of people.”

She continued: “I would absolutely pick Edinboro over again. Even though I’m just a sophomore, I’m starting my grad school search already and am afraid I am going to have a hard time finding somewhere that can even compare to my experience here.”

Clarion University’s enrollment has decreased from Fall 2012 to Fall 2016 by 16.4 percent, or 1,296 students.

A look ahead, by county 

In the next decade, working group data, which Walker presented, predicted that the Edinboro enrollment from Butler County, where Slippery Rock is located, will decrease by 13.1 percent. Similarly, Crawford County will decrease by 16.3 percent and Erie County, 2.1 percent. Currently, 4.2 percent of the students from Clarion County who attend a PASSHE school attend Edinboro; 6.5 percent of Butler County students attend Edinboro; 75 percent of Erie County students attend Edinboro; and 15 percent of Venango County students attend Edinboro.

Comparatively, approximately 94 percent of Allegheny County students, 78 percent of Clarion County students and 59 percent of Venango County students attend Clarion University. Fifty-eight percent of students from Butler County, 29.4 percent of students from Allegheny County, and 18 percent of students from Venango County attend Slippery Rock University.

Finally, senior Emma Giering is from Clarion, Pennsylvania and said, “I don’t know if it’s true for everyone, but I wanted to leave home to go to college.” She also said that the choice of Edinboro was “entirely coincidental.”

“My mother and I drove to Gannon to meet some professors from the English department, and when we got on the wrong road going home we ended up at the cross section in Edinboro.”

Giering and her mother have a rule that if they miss a turn or exit, they follow the road into the next closest town and find something to eat or an antique store. They found Crossroads Dinor, and while they were eating there, they both noticed a lot of college-aged kids. After finishing their desserts, they took a trip down Meadville Street and “lo and behold, there sat Edinboro.”

She said they went to the admissions building and took an impromptu tour of the campus.

Giering took classes at Clarion during her senior year of high school. She said, “Clarion University was okay, but I was certain I wasn’t going to continue post-secondary ed there.”

Over the last five years, Edinboro’s acceptance rate has been as low as 76 percent and as high as 99 percent; most recently, the acceptance rate was 95.3 percent in Fall 2016.

“The acceptance rate moving to 99 percent is a bit of a glaring red flag for me,” Giering said. “I think Edinboro is going to have trouble attracting serious students with a rate that high.”

However, she continued: “I think if a student seeks out knowledge and is genuinely interested in subjects that extend past their field, I think the opportunities available to that student become exponential. That’s been my experience.

“In the long run, I think Edinboro grew on me more than I’d like to admit. There’s something endearing about walking to class and getting to pretend you’re in the movie ‘Fargo,’ and there’s something about the lakes, Flip Cafe and a beach 13 miles down the road that still appeal to me.”

While Edinboro faces decreasing enrollment and increasing tuition costs, students from neighboring counties still find a place within Edinboro’s walls.

Dakota Palmer can be reached at eupnews.spectator@gmail.com.

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