Reaching out raises enrollment

Posted: Tuesday, September 12, 2000

Tonya Irving of Oregon, a first-year student at the University of Alaska Southeast, first heard of the school when staff sent her a letter. Fellow freshman Bull Marks of Indiana found UAS on the Internet.

Mailings, Internet listings and other efforts are among the reasons UAS has seen a nearly 7 percent increase in enrollment this fall over this time last year a rise from 1,762 students to 1,881 students, university officials said. About 605 of this fall's students are enrolled full-time.

The enrollment increase at the UAS Juneau campus includes a jump in first-time freshmen and candidates for master's degrees in teaching, and a small rise in transfer students, said Dean of Students Bruce Gifford.

A major factor could be 30,000 brochures UAS mailed to high school juniors and seniors, including all such students in Alaska and a selection of students from other states. The university bought lists of names from other states, focusing on students who had good SAT scores and showed an interest in the subjects UAS specializes in, such as marine biology.

New students come from 25 states, Gifford said. And all of the freshman biology sections are full.

Irving, the student from Oregon, is majoring in marine biology. She chose UAS over two other colleges partly because she got a scholarship that covers some of tuition. "And I thought it would be fun to come to Alaska," she said.

Marks, an environmental science major, said he wanted to go to a small college. He found UAS while "messing around on the

Internet" and e-mailed the school for information. He was pleased with the personal response.

Staff members have picked up students at the airport, Gifford said. And the school held an orientation for parents, so they would be comfortable with UAS. One family came from Georgia to visit the campus.

"Part of the key to retaining students is that parents are comfortable with the student's decision," Gifford said.

It's also clear from interviews with students that the school's location is important to them.

"It's the final frontier. It's the great north. It's where I've always wanted to go. It's like a dream being here," Marks said.

Location mattered to freshman Autumn Botts, too. She's from Hoonah and wants to stay close to home and study Native art as part of a liberal arts degree.

Freshman Darcy Haskell of Colorado visited Juneau last summer on a boating vacation and stayed at Auke Bay harbor, near the UAS campus, but she first heard of the school from her mother's search on the Internet.

UAS was her first and only choice, partly because of the maritime setting. She's another marine biology major. Her friends in Colorado hadn't heard of UAS. But now Haskell tells her friends: "It's like my dorm is better than yours. My classes are tinier than yours. How many people at a big college know their chancellor? I went out to dinner with him."

The UAS campuses in Sitka and Ketchikan haven't seen the same rise in enrollments that Juneau has experienced.

The Sitka campus has 640 students, about the same as last fall, but the number of full-time students rose from 21 to 31. Ketchikan has dropped from 405 students last fall to 330 students this week, Dean of Students Gifford said.

"That community has been experiencing some real impacts from the mill closure," he said.

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