Oklahoma's college enrollment is down slightly this year, according to a preliminary report released Thursday.
State higher education officials released numbers for the fall 2012 semester that show enrollment at public colleges and universities slipped 0.9 percent over the previous year.
That dip was driven by sharper drops at regional schools and community colleges. Enrollment at regional universities dropped 2.9 percent, while enrollment at community colleges is down 2.1 percent.
At the state's two research universities — the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University — enrollment climbed 3.1 percent.
The decline comes after several years of booming enrollment growth. Between 2009 and 2011, the higher education system added more than 16,000 students — a figure that nearly equals the enrollment of the University of Central Oklahoma.
Although enrollment is down slightly at Oklahoma's public schools, it increased by 3.8 percent at the state's private colleges and universities. Although it's difficult to point to a reason for the shift, the increase in private university enrollment could be a sign of the rebounding economy, said Tony Hutchison, the State Regents for Higher Education's vice chancellor for strategic planning, analysis and workforce and economic development.
At the onset of the recession, private colleges and universities took a greater enrollment hit than public schools did, Hutchison said. The increase in private college enrollment might simply mean those schools are beginning to catch up, he said.