CULLOWHEE – New buildings are going up all around the campus at Western Carolina University, and with enrollment at an all-time high and a record number of freshman applications for three consecutive years, the mortar and masonry need to dry fast.

For the first time in Western Carolina’s history, enrollment at the university has topped the 7,000 mark, with a total student headcount of 7,034 this fall. That’s the word from Western Chancellor John Bardo, who delivered the news to the university’s board of trustees at its quarterly meeting Friday, Sept. 6.

University officials have suspected this year’s tally would top the previous enrollment record of 6,912, set in 1975. But they have been awaiting the 10th day of classes, which is the formal “freeze date” when the enrollment books are closed.

The total undergraduate headcount for fall is up by 29 students over last year, to 5,374, and the total graduate headcount is up by 110, to 1,204. That makes for a total resident student headcount of 6,578, up by 139 over last year’s count. Distance learning programs add another 456 students to the roll, for the 7,034 total.

Western’s freshman class of 1,220 is 42 students larger than last year’s class, with an average SAT score of 1012 – tying last year’s average SAT score, the highest on record for the institution – and grade point average of 3.25, also a record for a WCU freshman class.

“I’m pleased to report that our numbers are up across the board. We have more students enrolled than at any time in the institution’s history, and they are better prepared academically than ever before,” Bardo said. “This tells us one thing – by raising academic standards and improving the value of the education students are receiving at Western, we are doing something right. That’s why we are able to grow this university without turning back from our goal of improving the quality of student.”
Western also had a record number of applicants for enrollment, with more than 4,150 prospective students applying for admission as freshmen in 2002.

“Recruitment efforts have focused on the quality and wide variety of academic programs Western offers,” said Tom Canepa, Western’s associate vice chancellor for enrollment management. “More and more new students are looking to Western as a ‘first choice’ university to pursue their educations.”

Western’s record enrollment comes as work is well under way on a new 300-bed residence hall, one of several campus construction and renovation projects funded through the higher education bonds approved by N.C. voters in November 2000.

Western has been identified by the UNC system as a “focused growth institution,” and the campus is expected to accommodate a significant increase in the number of students seeking college educations over the next eight to 10 years, with enrollment projected to top 9,400 by 2010.

Also under construction at Western are a fine and performing arts center, a $30 million facility that will provide classroom, performance and exhibition space for art, music and theatre; a federally funded $8 million regional workforce development center that will house specialized facilities and laboratories in high-technology fields; a $6.7 million expansion of the A.K. Hinds University Center to provide additional student meeting, recreation and retail space; and $7.3 million in renovation work on McKee and Bird buildings.

In the photograph...

Western Carolina University officials check out progress on a $30 million fine and performing arts center, one of several major construction and renovation projects under way. The projects, which also include a new 300-bed residence hall, come as enrollment this fall at Western tops 7,000 students for the first time in university history. From left to right are Chuck Wooten, vice chancellor for administration and finance; Chancellor John Bardo; and Joe Crocker chairman of the board of trustees.

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Last modified: Friday, Sept. 6, 2002
Copyright 2002 by Western Carolina University