UAS enrollment up 30 percent from last fall

Economy, wider recruiting both factors

Posted: Monday, August 31, 2009

Enrollment at the University of Alaska Southeast for the fall semester is up from last year, particularly with new undergraduate students.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

As of Aug. 24, the number of new fall undergraduates at UAS jumped 31.2 percent - almost 100 students - over last fall's total. The economy and new recruiting strategies are both factors, according to Admissions Director Joe Nelson.

The head count for the three Southeast campuses was up 6.5 percent and credit hours were up 9.1 percent from the same time last year. The Ketchikan campus already surpassed its fall 2008 total and Sitka and Juneau might soon follow.

"In previous years, our numbers go through a boom in the last two weeks," said Julie Staveland, outreach and orientation coordinator. Final numbers won't be released until four weeks after the semester starts Thursday.

The bad economy is a factor in the enrollment boom. Nelson said there's an increase in Juneau students choosing to stay in the area and Juneau-Douglas High School grads who attended schools in the Lower 48 and are now transferring back to UAS.

That mirrors a national trend of enrollment booms in community colleges as unemployed and underemployed people seek better opportunities through education, and first-time undergraduates opt for less expensive higher education.

One of Juneau's students choosing to stay is 2009 graduate Kymberly Hoyle.

Hoyle, 19, originally planned on attending Western State College in Colorado.

"I love Colorado and the school has a lot to offer. It's close-knit and it has smaller classes," Hoyle said. She already was in the middle of housing paperwork when she took a step back to look at her finances, only to find that, "It looked out of the question."

So Hoyle made the decision to stay in Juneau and go to UAS.

"Tuition is cheaper because it's in-state and I'm living at home with my parents, so I save a lot of money," Hoyle said. She estimates she will save about $20,000 a year.

"I think I made a good decision to not go because of my financial issues," Hoyle said. "I really wanted to go (to Western State) but now that I'm considering other options I can do study abroad for a cheaper price than going to Colorado."

Nelson said there also has been a renewed focus on recruiting in the past two years, with brochure updates, hosting two more enrollment days and expanding recruitment across the state.

A lot of Alaskans haven't been to Juneau and don't know about UAS, Nelson said. Last year, they put a recruiter in Anchorage for high school outreach. Another recruiter visits small high school college fairs in four towns in the Northwest Arctic.

"We haven't reached that far in the past," Nelson said.

UAS isn't alone. Kenai Peninsula College, a UAA campus, reported a 26 percent increase at the beginning of its fall semester, Aug. 24.

"We're very excited that more new students are choosing to come to UAS. We're particularly pleased that undergraduates from all over Alaska and the Lower 48 are engaging in academic opportunities unique to Southeast Alaska," Chancellor John Pugh said.

Last year, 3,598 students enrolled at UAS for fall 2008. The Juneau campus saw 2,623 students; 510 were full-time students and 494 were new recruits.

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