Western sees record enrollment

Western’s enrollment numbers continue to increase, setting records and surpassing state expectations with nearly 1,000 more students this year than last.

And administrators are feeling the crunch as students jam into classrooms, dorms and campus food courts.

Luther Hughes, associate vice president of Enrollment Management, said Western’s enrollment has ballooned to 17,500. The freshman class totals more than 3,000 students, 300 more than last year.

To some, the numbers are staggering. In 1997, 14,543 students were enrolled. The numbers have risen since, with jumps of 1,000 students now two years in a row and an overall increase of 20 percent.

Hughes cited a slew of reasons for the skyrocketing numbers, including increased admission efforts, campus and housing improvements, tuition incentive programs and more faculty members.

“Everybody in the university is helping with the recruitment effort,” he said, adding that this week will be especially challenging and that students could have frustrations with parking or reworking their schedules.

In a meeting last week, President Gary Ransdell spoke candidly about the changes, and said decreased state funding and increased enrollment has left Western in a tough spot financially.

“Make no mistake – our enrollment growth is going to be painful,” he said.

Ransdell said, for now, the university is funding its growth from tuition increases. On Friday, the Board of Regents approved a 10.4 percent tuition increase for the 2003-2004 school year.

Some class sizes have grown, and Provost Barbara Burch said 11 additional full-time faculty members and a few part-time instructors have been hired.

Though she doesn’t expect Western to cap enrollment next year, Burch said the university might consider limiting the number of students in certain majors.

Hughes said the student-to-teacher ratio is now 18 or 19 to 1. Just three years ago, the ratio was 16.8 to 1.

Reach Molly O’Connor at [email protected]