INCREASES IN RETENTION RATE, FRESHMAN CLASS,
GRADUATE STUDENTS DRIVE WCU ENROLLMENT BOOM
CULLOWHEE – Thanks to a noticeable increase in the percentage of returning students, a 5.5 percent surge in the size of the freshman class, and a nearly 9 percent rise in the number of graduate students, enrollment for the 2004 fall semester at Western Carolina University should be higher than previously projected.
Chancellor John W. Bardo announced to the university's board of trustees at its quarterly meeting that, as of 8 a.m. Friday, Sept. 3, overall enrollment stood at an all-time high of 8,343. Enrollment numbers won't be official until Sept. 9, when enrollment reports are finalized for The University of North Carolina system.
“What is most exciting about this news is that not only are we seeing a larger number of new freshmen, we also are seeing more sophomores, more juniors and more seniors, as well,” Bardo told the board. “That's the really big news, because we have been trying to get our hands around the retention problem for several years.”
Approximately 74 percent of last year's freshman class has returned to campus this fall, which is up by 5 percentage points over last year's rate of returning freshmen, he said.
“That is a huge victory for us,” Bardo said. “We are not yet where we need to be, but it is a tremendous step forward, and much of our enrollment growth comes from a larger number of students coming back to us after the summer break.”
Western has implemented a variety of strategies to help freshmen adjust to college life, including improvements in the advising process, implementation of new mentoring and tutoring programs, and major enhancements to student life outside the classroom through enhanced social and recreational activities.
Overall enrollment at Western has increased by more than 10 percent over last year's then-record class of 7,561, and by 1,310 students in the past two years. By way of comparison, the Haywood County town of Clyde has a population of 1,324, according to the 2000 census. About half of Western's enrollment growth over the past 32 years has occurred in the past two years.