Five-year enrollment decline broken with fall 2015

Students walk to and from the Commons Building on the crowded sidewalk in front of Keller Hall’s Raburn Wing Tuesday afternoon. Enrollment increased 3 percent this semester causing an increased number of students on campus.

by News Editor Anna Brown

For the first time in five years, UNA adds student enrollment to its list of recent developments on campus.

After five consecutive years of enrollment decline, UNA has its highest number of enrolled students since 2011 with 7,078 students currently enrolled for the fall semester. Enrollment for fall 2011 was 7,182 students.

Statistics from the Fall 2014 Semester Summary Report provided by the Department of Institutional Research, Planning and Assessment showed this year’s fall enrollment exceeded 7,000 students for the first time since 2012.

Enrollment for fall 2012 was 7,053 students.

“I don’t think this will be a one-time thing,” said Director of Institutional Research, Planning and Assessment Andrew Luna. “We had a lot of good elements put together that created an environment for this (increase). I’m looking forward to the day when we can start talking about reaching 8,000 and beyond.”

He said President Kitts wanted this year’s enrollment to be above last year’s fall enrollment, which was 6,842 students.

Additionally, UNA has the largest freshman cohort in its 185-year history with 1,159 first-time, full-time students currently enrolled. The fall 2014 freshman cohort contained 912 students. This indicates about a 25 percent increase in freshman students enrolled this year.

“I’ve been in this business for decades and have never seen an increase in the freshman class of this magnitude,” said University President Kenneth Kitts in a university press release Friday. “We are thrilled to welcome these students to the UNA family.”

The highest enrollment in UNA history was 7,323 students in fall 2007.

The work of the university as a whole lead to this increase in enrollment, Luna said.

The admissions department improved their recruiting techniques this year, said Temporary Admissions Coordinator Kim Mauldin said.

“We traveled more, and we covered a larger territory by going to schools in other states to talk about UNA,” she said in a previous article.

Another key contributor to the increase in freshmen was campus tours, she said.

“One of the biggest pushes that we make when we’re out recruiting is emphasizing tours,” she said in a previous article. “We can talk to students all day long, but you really need to come experience it.”

The number of students who visited campus this summer doubled the number who visited last summer with over 800 people touring campus. Mauldin said about 450 people toured during summer 2014.

Luna said he thinks the addition of the Science and Technology Building, residence halls, and the hiring of a new president, contributed to the increase.

Junior Natalie Ball said she thinks the new residence halls and science building attracted freshmen to UNA.

“The new residence halls let freshmen know they will have a nice place to stay here,” she said. “The science building let them know that we are expanding and trying to improve our university.”

Freshman Zach Wynn said he thinks the new facilities got the attention of students from the Shoals area.

“Many local students see UNA as an older, less-advanced university,” he said. “The new buildings made people wonder what’s going on at UNA.”

UNA will see increases of enrollment as more people find out about the university and the benefits of coming to a smaller university, Luna said.

The university held open enrollment this summer for returning students. This gave returning students the chance to enroll for the fall earlier than previous years.

Administration decided to not drop students until Sept. 10 to provide those students an incentive or “second chance” to pay for their classes, he said.

Not only is enrollment up, but credit hour production — the number of hours or classes students take — increased by about 6 percent this fall, Luna said.

See page 1A for more information about credit hour production.