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WCU Stories

Spring semester enrollment hits all-time high; graduate, transfer, distance numbers all up

Just a year after Western Carolina University’s spring enrollment surpassed 11,000 for the first time in the institution’s history, the tally for the current spring semester has hit another seasonal record, with a total of 11,434 students.

The increase of 3.68 percent – or 406 students – over last spring’s enrollment of 11,028 students is part of census data compiled by WCU’s Office of Institutional Planning and Effectiveness following the completion of the 10th day of spring classes, which is known as “census day.” Enrollment numbers are considered preliminary until they have been rechecked and files sent to the University of North Carolina System Office.

Among the factors behind the record spring numbers are a nearly 4 percent increase in the total undergraduate population (9,774 students this spring compared to 9,399 in spring 2019) and a 1.9 percent increase in graduate students (up to 1,660 this spring from 1,629 last spring).

In addition, the number of new spring transfer undergraduate students rose by 2.63 percent, to 507 students this spring from 494 in spring 2019. Distance education saw a spring-to-spring enrollment increase of 10.67 percent, with 2,447 students studying via distance and online programs this spring compared to 2,211 last year.

The fall-to-spring retention rate – the rate at which first-time full-time freshmen return for the spring semester – continued to hold steady at better than 91 percent.

The spring enrollment jump comes after WCU set a fall record in August, topping 12,000 for the first time, with a total enrollment of 12,167 for fall 2019.

Spring enrollment numbers at institutions of higher education typically are a bit lower than fall enrollment as some students graduate in the middle of the academic year while others do not return for a second semester for reasons ranging from academic to personal, university officials say.

With the spring semester in full swing, WCU already is looking toward the 2020 fall semester and next year’s freshman class and incoming graduate student class. The university will hold undergraduate Open House events on two  upcoming Saturdays – Feb. 22 and March 21 – to provide interested students and their families with an opportunity to tour campus, learn about the academic programs and find out about important topics such as financial aid.

Registration for undergraduate Open House and more information are available by going to the website or by calling the Office of Undergraduate Admissions at 828-227-7317 or toll-free 877-928-4968.

Prospective graduate students can visit with faculty and learn about educational opportunities at graduate Open House events in Cullowhee and at the WCU instructional site in Asheville at Biltmore Park. For dates and additional information, visit the website

For more information about graduate programs, visit the Graduate School website, email or call 828-227-7398.

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