UW-RF attendance reaches historic high
For more than a decade enrollment at UW-River Falls has grown steadily.
The 2010-11school year is no exception, with a preliminary head count showing 6,819 students.
That compares with 6,728 students last year, 6,126 in 2005 and 5,769 in 1999.
"As far as we can tell, this year's count is an all-time high," said Alan Tuchtenhagen, associate vice chancellor for enrollment services. "It's been a planned growth, a little more each year, and something that we are able to manage."
Tuchtenhagen said growing enrollments are occurring across the entire University of Wisconsin System with a nod from state government.
"The state really wants us to increase the number of baccalaureate degrees that we produce," he said. "The college-graduate initiative is seen as a way to help boost the state's industry and its income."
The upward enrollment trend followed a period of relatively flat student numbers in the late 1980s and early- to mid-1990s.
Tuchtenhagen said enrollment caps during that time were necessitated by tight state budgets. He added the latest growth trend may fizzle if budgetary restraints return.
"Whether we continue on this manageable pace and hit 7,000 students and even beyond depends on state funding," Tuchtenhagen said. "We're holding our breath. If the funding's not there, it reduces our ability to grow, and we're fast reaching that point."
Tuchtenhagen also touched on these issues related to enrollment at UW-RF:
- A counter trend to the overall enrollment growth is that this year's freshman class is slightly down. The reason is that there were smaller high school graduating classes in Wisconsin and Minnesota. The same is expected for next spring. That means more competition among the universities for fewer high school grads.
- Roughly 45% of the current UW-RF student body come from Minnesota. While this percentage varies, it's been increasing and is predicted to go up even more as the Twin Cities population keeps going up.
- UW-RF students come from more than 400 high schools, but these are the top "feeder schools" for this year's freshman class: Hudson, 46; Stillwater, (Minn.) 33; River Falls, 31; Hastings, (Minn.) 27; Park (Cottage Grove), (Minn.)23, and Woodbury, (Minn.) 22.
- This year there was a 30% enrollment jump in "students of color," representing both freshmen and transfers.
- Among transfers this year to UW-RF, Century college in White Bear Lake, Minn., led the way, followed by Inver Hills Community College (Inver Grove Heights, Minn.), and the Chippewa Valley Technical College campuses in Eau Claire and River Falls.
- While enrollment gains can be managed, how students choose majors cannot. There's been a big jump in the popularity of animal science majors, especially in the dairy, horse and pre-vet areas. Psychology also remains a popular major while elementary education, which also reflects a national trend, has "flattened out."
- To accommodate more students, efforts have been made to redesign and maximum building and classroom efficiencies, which includes adding more late afternoon and evening classes. Once a new master plan is finished, there should be increasing usage earmarked for Rodli Commons and the Hagestad Hall.
- On-campus housing is at capacity, but a major addition to the South Fork Suites that should be done in two years will ease that crunch.
- Parking, especially as it creeps farther out into neighborhood streets, remains an issue. Again, the still-in-the-works master plan is expected to address that concern.
- The newly opened Hudson satellite campus has three fully used classrooms and contributed to the overall enrollment figure.
- UW-RF is also trying to handle an influx of older (nontraditional) students who have returned to college to complete a bachelor's degree or start a new major.