OGDEN, Utah – For the fourth year in a row, Weber State University’s enrollment has set a new milestone, topping 25,000 students for the first time.
As of the third week of fall semester, when the state institutions report their enrollment figures to the Utah System of Higher Education, WSU had a total headcount of 25,483 students. That’s an increase of 1,357 students, or 5.62 percent, in comparison with fall semester 2010. Since fall 2006, WSU has experienced an enrollment increase of 39.2 percent.
“In terms of total headcount, our enrollment increase this fall is the largest of any public institution in the state,” said Provost Michael Vaughan.
The university’s full-time equivalent (FTE) figures for fall semester are up nearly 1 percent compared to the same time last year. WSU’s budget-related FTE rose by 121, a .88 percent increase. Full-time equivalent 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.
University officials attribute the enrollment growth to multiple factors, most notably changes in the academic calendar that keep students engaged throughout the year, increases in the number of Hispanic students, and the addition of programs and degrees to meet the needs of local industry. Vaughan said the enrollment growth this fall builds on a strong summer session. WSU restructured the academic calendar to better meet students’ needs by making the summer session 14 weeks long, comparable in length to fall and spring semesters.
“We wanted to help students complete their degrees in a timely manner,” Vaughan said.
Vaughan also cited strong growth in the number of Hispanic students attending WSU. Fall 2011 numbers show a 27 percent increase in the number of Hispanic students attending Weber State, compared to a year ago.
Vaughan attributes the increase in Hispanic students 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 a household income below $25,000, and outreach efforts like the Upward Bound and Student to Student programs, which are designed to attract and recruit underserved populations to campus.
Enrollment increases may also reflect new degree programs WSU has created in response to feedback from local businesses and industry.
“In the last few years we’ve added programs like electronics engineering and master’s programs in nursing, taxation, radiologic sciences and professional communication to better serve the needs of area employers,” Vaughan said. The three-year-old Master of Nursing program has already generated national attention, being ranked for the first time by U.S. News & World Report among the best master’s programs for nursing in the country.
Increased demand also is being reported in on-campus housing. The university’s residence halls are accommodating an all-time high 781 students this fall, the fourth year in a row housing has achieved a new occupancy record.
Vaughan said the record enrollment presents challenges at a time when state funding for higher education remains flat.
“Given these difficult economic times, the fact that we’re able to accommodate this magnitude of growth is a testament to the commitment of our faculty and staff,” said President Ann Millner. “Our faculty and staff continue to demonstrate their dedication to serving our students and providing exceptional learning opportunities for them.”
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Michael Vaughan, provost
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