Students who filed into classrooms this morning to begin the fall semester at the University of Alaska Southeast could be part of one of the largest student bodies in the institution's history, according to UAS Dean of Students and Enrollment Management Paul Kraft.
"We've had consistent growth since 1999 since we made a concerted effort to turn enrollment around," Kraft said.
By Friday, 629 full-time students and 1,210 part-time students had registered, about a 7 percent increase from the record 587 full-time and 1,160 part-time students registered at this time last year, Kraft said.
This year's freshman orientation was the largest the university has seen, with 135 students signing up. Those numbers resulted, in part, because the university made orientation a requirement this year.
"(Making freshman orientation mandatory) is not something we are apologizing for," Kraft said. "Starting college is one of the biggest transitions in many people's lives. There are some times when we know better than an 18-year-old, and this would be one of those times."
On Friday afternoon in Banfield Hall, the 84-bed freshman dorm at UAS, two-somes and three-somes of young women were hurrying out to an orientation meeting as freshman Katrina Wellington headed in with her shopping-bag-burdened parents in tow.
"She is my baby," Marie Wellington said of her daughter as the two deposited some dorm supplies in the small room Katrina shares with a roommate.
Her father Burlington Wellington, clutching a large bag of pistachio nuts and some file folders, watched his daughter unpack. The couple came from Metlakatla to bring Katrina to UAS, the last of their children to go off to school, he said.
Katrina Wellington is part if the Preparing Indigenous Teachers for Alaska Schools, or PITAS program, that trains Alaska Native teachers. About 40 other students are in the program at UAS. The teacher-training programs, second to marine biology, are some of the most popular programs at the college, Kraft said.
Wellington, like many Alaskan UAS students, said she chose the college because it is close to home. She also has family in Juneau. About 10 percent of the student body comes from outside Alaska, according to Kraft.
Across the parking lot from Banfield Hall, students were playing pool and watching TV in the lounge area of the student lodge. Matt Knerr, whose wife Amanda oversees the dorms, was throwing a tennis ball for his 9-month-old golden retriever, Sammy.
Sammy will replace a black lab, Rio, as the lodge dog this year. Students will be able to "check out" Sammy for walks.
Amanda Knerr was busy talking to students and answering the phone. With so many students, housing is tight, she said.
"We do have a bit of a waiting list, but we are removing people from it, too," she said.
To make room for freshmen, some of the family housing for older students has been reassigned, Kraft said, so older students must turn to the community for places to live.
The university is asking people who might be able to provide apartment-style housing to university students to call the housing office, 465-6528. Students who still need housing are encouraged to call the housing office soon, said Scott Foster, UAS spokesman.
Julia O'Malley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.