Significant Gains in Diversity Help Fuel Enrollment Increase

As it increases in total enrollment, Eastern Kentucky University is growing more diverse.

Preliminary fall enrollment figures at the University show significant increases in African American and Latino students. The growth in underrepresented populations has, in large part, fueled an increase in overall numbers. As of Aug. 26, a total of 16,454 students had enrolled for fall classes at EKU, up 1.8 percent from the same date a year ago and coming at a time of slowing of growth in the number of high school graduates.

Almost all the University’s enrollment categories, compared to the same date in 2013, are trending in a positive direction. Some highlights:

·         Black/African American students at EKU now number 997, up 11 percent.

·         Hispanic/Latino students number 344, up 19 percent. College fairs and an annual summer Leadership and College Experience Camp have led many Hispanic/Latino students to visit and become more familiar with the University, which now boasts a full-time Latino recruitment specialist.

·         New freshmen this year total 2,733, up 7.3 percent and the highest number since 2000.

·         Currently, almost 1,500 students are taking online courses, an area of rapid growth, especially the last two years, as more and more programs are offered as fully online degree options. Online credit hours are up 15.6 percent.

·         Reflective of a commitment to attract more of the best and brightest students, Honors Program enrollment has jumped 7.5 percent overall since last year. The program welcomed 125 new incoming freshmen this fall, up from 103 in the Fall 2013 class, an increase of 21 percent.

·         More and more transfer students are attracted to EKU, as indicated by a 6.5 percent increase in new transfer undergraduates over 2013. Approximately 10 percent of Kentucky Community and Technical College System students go on to attend Eastern.

·         Enrollment in the University’s dual credit program for high school students increased 21.8 percent over the past year and 62 percent since 2012-13. Eastern now partners with 38 schools; 646 students are enrolled for Fall 2014.

·         Graduate School enrollment is up 7.8 percent.

·         Total credit hours are up 2.1 percent.

Dr. Brett Morris, interim executive director for enrollment management at EKU, attributed the uptick to more aggressive recruitment and retention strategies, earlier scholarship awards and additional diversity scholarships, earlier and more persistent communications with prospective students, greater use of social media, a renewed commitment to building relationships, enhancements to the campus visit program (including “shadow days” with current EKU students), more attractive housing options (two new residence halls in last two years), more attentive and intensive academic advising, greater connections with faculty that often “seal the deal,” and an improved retention rate.

It was noted in October 2013 that EKU’s freshman retention rate (which measures first-time freshmen continuing to their second term) had jumped from 64.1 percent the previous year to 69.6 percent, while the University’s four-year graduation rate had increased from 19.7 percent to 23.5 percent. (The four-year rate was only 9.4 percent in 2000.) Five-year and six-year graduation rates had also improved.

“We have expanded our efforts to improve both retention and graduation rates,” said Dr. Eugene Palka, interim executive director for retention and graduation. “Successes in these areas impact favorably on admissions, just as the latter can help to improve the former. We have implemented a number of programs and services that are among the best practices nationwide. These include tutoring, a GURU (students helping students) program, a 15-to-Finish campaign, a mandatory workshop for students on academic probation, a new advising platform called the Student Success Collaborative, a robust ‘bridge’ program for incoming students with developmental needs, and many others.”

Both Morris and Palka predict even better days ahead.

“Enrollment will continue to grow if we continue to employ best practices,” Morris said. “Our goal is to continue to invest in our students, with plans to increase our scholarship offerings in the next year.”

Final, official enrollment figures for Fall 2014, as well as official retention and graduation numbers for this past academic year, will be announced later this fall.

Published on September 02, 2014

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