Enrollment at Southeast surges close to new high

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

FULL OF CLASS

By Callie Chitwood ~ Southeast Missourian

Ask students at Southeast Missouri State University to sum up their first day of classes, and most of them say the same thing: hectic.

This semester at Southeast may be even more fervid than usual as the university deals with record-breaking enrollment. An preliminary report released Tuesday showed an enrollment increase of nearly 5 percent in comparison with the 2001 fall semester.

The report put the undergraduate and graduate count at 8,753, up from 8,342 at this time last year.

While the official enrollment numbers won't be out for another four weeks, Southeast administrators say they expect this to be a record-breaking enrollment, exceeding last year's all-time high of 9,352.

The increase in enrollment hasn't gone unnoticed by students, many of whom are dealing with longer lines, fewer available parking spaces and packed classrooms.

Senior Lori Ritchey said she hasn't had any problems, but she sympathizes with underclassmen moving into dorms and buying supplies.

"I helped the freshmen move into the Towers last week, and I felt sorry for them. The waiting line there was all the way out to the road," Ritchey said. "I was also in the bookstore last week, and there were tons of people waiting in really long lines."

Dr. Pauline Fox, vice president for administration and enrollment management, said the total for the fall semester last year increased by 1,010 from the first day of classes to the final census in the fourth week.

Southeast could have more than 9,700 students after this year's fourth-week census, Fox said preliminary figures indicate.

"The enrollment numbers don't really surprise me because we've had larger freshmen classes in the last few years, and that carries over to subsequent junior and senior classes," Fox said.

Growth by transfer

A steady growth in the number of transfer students attending Southeast has also added to enrollment increases, Fox said.

Sarah Montgomery, a junior at Southeast, is a transfer student from Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff, Mo. After standing in line 20 minutes at the college bookstore, Montgomery said it was evident there were more students this semester.

"The classes I've been to so far have been fairly full. There are very few empty seats," she said.

The university has also seen a significant increase in the number of credit hours students are taking, despite hefty tuition increases that became effective this semester.

In June 2002, the university board of regents approved a tuition increase of $6 per credit hour in addition to a $17 tuition increase imposed last year.

According to the enrollment report, 7,212 of those enrolled are consider full-time students, taking 12 hours or more.

The enrollment report also revealed a 19.4 percent increase in the number of students participating in SEMO's graduate program.

Dr. Phil Parette, dean of the School of Graduate Studies, said since the graduate program first began, fall enrollment has grown from 119 in 1966 to 1,254 in 2001.

"This year's increase in enrollment may be attributed to a variety of factors, including, but not limited to, an economic downturn that typically results in greater numbers of students enrolling in graduate education," Parette said.

Parette also said the growth may be due to expanded accessibility of graduate programs through online course offerings, higher education centers and off-campus programs.

cchitwood@semissourian.com

335-6611, ext. 128

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