Many reasons for cited for applicant increase

Clare Lowther

Applications from would-be Western students have bombarded the admissions office this year.

The student applicant pool has increased by 30 percent this year and 50 percent from two years ago.

Luther Hughes, associate vice president for Enrollment Management, said 2,353 students have applied for admission for next school year as compared to 1,737 at this time last year. Of this year’s applicants, 2,254 are incoming freshmen, up 36 percent from last year.

The remaining 99 applicants are transfer students or students applying for readmission to Western.

Hughes credits the increase to a number of factors.

“I don’t think you can say one is more important than the others…” Hughes said. “We have hired additional staff to help with recruiting, which means we have more people on the road visiting high schools and more in contact with students.”

Hughes said recruiters emphasize to high school students the importance of applying early so that they can register early for classes and get better housing assignments.

Hughes also said that the recent expansion of the university’s Tuition Incentive Program may be partially responsible for the increase in interest at Western.

TIP is a program that provides reduced out-of-state tuition for students in 21 counties surrounding Kentucky.

This fall, the Board of Regents voted to expand TIP coverage to six counties in Ohio, Illinois and Missouri.

Hughes said improved housing facilities are also an incentive for incoming students. In the past two years, Western has renovated several dorms including McLean Hall and Northeast and Southwest Halls. Officials have plans to renovate other residence halls in the future.

“There has definitely been an increase in interest,” said Jeri Harrel, a guidance counselor at Graves County High School.

Harrel said the majority of seniors at her high school choose to attend nearby Murray State University, but students interested in communication-related majors like journalism or broadcasting are particularly attracted to Western.

“Just the reputation catches their attention,” she said.

Agnes Mayberry, a counselor at Owensboro High School, said interest is also on the rise at her school.

“They like Western because it’s close to home, they can use their KEES money and many choose it because of specific majors,” she said.

Mayberry cited engineering, nursing and journalism as programs particularly enticing to her students.

Others choose Western for personal reasons.

Beni Gray, a sophomore from Fresno, Calif., transferred to Western this semester from Crafton Hills College in California. He said he came to Western to be near his father.

“I wanted to see what it was like to live on this side of the country,” he said.

Hughes said that although it was almost too early to predict, he estimated that Western’s student body would increase by about 500 students next fall.

Despite the likely rise in students, Hughes said he does not anticipate any problems involving housing shortages or increased class sizes. The average class size at Western is about 30 students.

“It’s an exciting time to be a part of this university because of all the changes taking place,” Hughes said. “There are a lot of good things happening.”

Reach Clare Lowther at [email protected]