Rising tuition and reduced course offerings are contributing to a decline in college and university enrollment, says the American Council of Education, whose poll finds falling enrollment in a dozen states.

"We feel pretty confident that this does represent a national trend," said David Merkowitz, spokesman for the council.But Utah's state colleges and universities are bucking the trend. The winter quarter saw a 4.16 percent enrollment increase over last year's winter quarter. Utah was not part of the survey.

Merkowitz said the 16 states responding to the survey represent more than 40 percent of the student body at two-year and four-year public and private colleges and universities. Twelve of those states showed declines.

ACE attributed the enrollment decline to reduced course offerings, tuition increases and enrollment caps associated with state budget constraints and to increased job opportunities with the economic recovery.

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Merkowitz said the shrinking pool of 18- to 24-year-olds "may be a factor but not much of one" in the declining enrollments. He said 40 percent of today's college students are "non-traditional" - older, attending part-time and supporting dependents.

Of the 16 states providing complete enrollment information, only Georgia, New Jersey, Tennessee and Texas reported increases.

"We've been making efforts to increase the college-going rate in the state, including a publicity campaign in the middle and high schools," said Joe Szutz, assistant vice chancellor for planning for the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. College and university enrollment in the state was up 2.6 percent.

Enrollment drops ranged from 2.5 percent in Mississippi to 0.1 percent in Maryland.

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