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WSU tops Utah schools in enrollment growth

Increase in enrollment at Weber State University exceeded the rates of all other Utah universities its size, according to a report the Utah System of Higher Education released on Friday.

As of the third week of the semester, WSU’s enrollment totaled 26,680 students. Compared to fall 2011, that’s an increase of 1,197 students, or 4.7 percent. Enrollment has increased by 46 percent since fall 2007. Compared to the University of Utah and Utah State University, WSU is only a few thousand students smaller.

“In terms of total headcount, our enrollment increase this fall is the largest of any public institution in the state,” said Provost Michael Vaughan in a press release.

The university’s full-time equivalent figures for fall semester are up 3.69 percent compared to the same time last year. WSU’s budget-related FTE rose by 412, a 2.98 percent increase. FTE is calculated by taking the total number of credit hours for all students and dividing by 15, the average number of credit hours for a full-time student.

The U of U gained 725 students. Southern Utah University gained 547 students. Snow College gained 134 students.

Schools whose enrollment went down this year include USU, Dixie State College, Utah Valley University and Salt Lake Community College.

WSU officials attribute the enrollment growth to multiple factors, most notably continued growth in online enrollment, increases in the number of Hispanic students, and new on-campus housing options that attract more out-of-state students.

WSU’s online enrollment jumped 7.8 percent this fall.

“We have strong online bachelor’s degree programs that provide students many ways to participate, and feature faculty who clearly and thoroughly assess students’ classwork,” Vaughan said. “Recent national publications have reported our online bachelor’s programs rank high in student engagement and assessment.”

Vaughan said WSU has seen strong growth in Hispanic student enrollment for the second consecutive year. The new numbers reflect an 8 percent increase in the number of Hispanic students attending WSU compared to a year ago.

Vaughan also attributed the growth to several university initiatives, including the Dream Weber program, which provides financial support for students who qualify for the federal Pell Grant program and have household incomes lower than $27,000. He also credited outreach efforts like the Upward Bound and Student to Student programs, which are designed to attract and recruit underserved populations to campus.

“Growing national awareness of our programs, coupled with new on-campus housing options, may account for the greater number of out-of-state students enrolled this fall,” Vaughan said.

The university’s residence halls are accommodating 857 students this fall, the fourth year in a row housing has achieved full occupancy.

“Our ability to accommodate this level of growth is a testament to the commitment of our faculty and staff,” said WSU President Ann Millner. “They continue to provide our students exceptional learning opportunities and personalized attention.”

U.S. News & World Report has again ranked WSU as one of the best public master’s universities in the West. That same publication highlighted WSU’s graduate programs in both business and nursing.

However, although WSU seems to be growing steadily, enrollment in Utah overall has seen a slight net decrease.

“After years of record enrollment growth and the effects of the recession on state budgets, some institutions are at or near capacity — making it difficult for some students to obtain classes,” said Commissioner of Higher Education Dave Buhler in a press release. He said many institutions have raised academic standards for admission and, since the economy is improving, more people are returning to work full-time.

“To reach Utah’s ‘big goal’ of 66 percent of adults with a college certificate or degree, we will need more students to enroll and complete their education,” Buhler said.

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