Ky. colleges see record enrollment

Tessa Duvall

Campus is a little more crowded this year – and not just at WKU.

Kentucky’s colleges and universities achieved record enrollment this fall, with an increase of 4 percent over the last year, according to a preliminary fall enrollment report issued by the Council on Postsecondary Education.

The number of students enrolled in postsecondary education in Kentucky is estimated to be at more than 270,000 students, according to the report.

Registrar Freida Eggleton said WKU’s enrollment grew modestly this fall by 143 students.

President Gary Ransdell said the statewide growth is the result of institutions working harder to recruit students and to maintain better retention rates of students already enrolled.

Much of the growth came from the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, which grew by 6 percent this year, the most of any of the state’s public institutions, according to the report.

WKU’s growth came from an increased number of students in the freshman class and a higher retention rate among current students, Ransdell said.

According to a WKU press release, there were 90 more students in the freshman class this fall than last fall.

Eggleton said the current economy has also had an impact on growth.

When the economy is bad, people return to education to be prepared for other professions, she said.

Ransdell said he wants to see retention continue to improve at WKU, along with increased enrollment at the university’s regional campuses and in online classes.

WKU will continue to hold its own on the prospective student market, he said.

“We will sustain the growth – I’m confident,” Ransdell said.

With budget cuts from the state and the impending end of federal stimulus money, a decrease in enrollment would make it more difficult to balance the budget, he said.

The newly increased admission standards shouldn’t affect WKU’s growth, he said. Only 100 students were affected by it this year, and it’s anticipated about 150 will be next fall.

From 2008 to 2009, enrollment at WKU increased by 951 students, Eggleton said.

Ransdell said that significant increase allowed WKU to invest some money into the creation of new faculty positions.

That may be more difficult this year, he said.