State undergrad enrollment remains static

Katherine Wade

President Gary Ransdell is planning to get WKU more involved with local high schools in hopes of improving enrollment and retention rates.

Enrollment figures remained fairly static last year at Kentucky’s public colleges and universities, according to a report released by the Council on Postsecondary Education last week, with the exception being Morehead State University.

Morehead was the only university to show significant growth, with an 18 percent increase in undergraduate enrollment last year.

In an interview with the Lexington Herald-Leader, Morehead president Wayne Andrews attributed the growth to “better connecting with the Eastern Kentucky school’s service area and the high school students there.”

WKU’s undergraduate enrollment experienced a zero percent change from 2010 to 2011.

The University of Louisville also had a zero percent change, and the University of Kentucky and Murray State University remained stable having a 2 percent or less change.

Ransdell said he believes that working with students in public schools before they get to college will impact that number.

WKU formed a retention task force earlier this year to deal with this issue by focusing on four areas: getting students in, getting students through, keeping students around and getting students out.

Gordon Emslie, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, said WKU will also be looking at the connections between student retention and high school GPA. He said ACT scores and GPA are two elements of finding students “who are more engaged.”

Ransdell said WKU also intends to increase the university’s average ACT score.

The national average is about 21 points of the possible 36.

“In the next three to five years, our average ACT score should be above the national average,” he said.

Despite the general lack of growth in enrollment rates among Kentucky public institutions from 2010-2011, the state has still improved key higher education performance measures over the last decade faster than any other state in the country, according to a report by the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems of Boulder, Colorado.

According to the CPE website, Kentucky ranked first in the NCHEMS report in three areas. They are: rate improvement in percent working-age adult degrees, six-year graduation rates at four-year colleges universities and number of undergraduate credentials awarded relative to the population with no college degree.

Sue Patrick, CPE communications director, said that at the state level they are very interested in college retention and student success in general.

“Leaving with a degree in hand is really what we’re focused on,” she said.

Patrick said she thinks better retention and enrollment rates are attainable for the individual schools.

“We are moving toward the right area and measuring the right stuff,” she said. “The goals are within reach.”