ENMU officials project record enrollment

By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer

Eastern New Mexico University officials say it’s preliminary, but a projected enrollment increase this fall will set a record.

ENMU is seeing an overall enrollment increase of 10.7 percent to more than 4,550 students.

According to a news release from ENMU, the previous record enrollment was 4,342 in fall 1972.

The university will finalize the numbers in its Sept. 4 census.

University officials are also reporting an increase of more than 8 percent in total credit hours being taken. And that increase is important because it means ENMU qualifies for a state funding increase in the 2010 Legislative session.

President Steven Gamble said the delay comes because the Legislature allots money starting for a fall semester, and the state must verify the increase.

Board of Regents Vice President Marshall Stinnett attributed the numbers largely to university efforts.

“I think that we’ve done very well in recruiting and taking care of students once they get to campus, and it’s beginning to pay off,” he said.

Stinnett also said fewer high school seniors go to work with the troubled economy.

Gamble also cited the school’s reputation and people going to school because they couldn’t find a job they wanted with less education.

“We are inexpensive,” he added.

ENMU has a low cost compared to other such schools, and people are looking for that and quality when their budgets are tighter, Gamble said.

For graduate students, Gamble said credit hours are up 31.4 percent and enrollment is up 30 percent, the biggest increase among the student categories, compared to last year.

Undergraduate credit hours are have risen 7 percent, while undergraduate enrollment increased 7.1 percent.

Only non-degree undergraduate enrollment — people taking classes for fun or self-improvement — is down.

“Everything else is pretty healthy,” Gamble said.

International enrollment remained around 130 students, Gamble said, about the same as last year.

“We believe our numbers from Cannon Air Force Base are showing an increase,” he also said.

Besides active duty military personnel and their families, Gamble predicts an increase in veterans attending because of a “generous” GI Bill. He did not yet have those figures.

As for dorm occupancy, residence halls are filled to about 95 percent of their capacity, compared to approximately 80 percent last year, Gamble said.

With about 60 more freshmen and 100 more transfer students, Gamble said, the campus has a lot of people to absorb. Full-time freshman are required to live in the dorms, and transfer students often live on campus because they’re unfamiliar with the community, he said.

“The other thing we’re hearing more and more of is, ‘I can’t find any place in Portales,’” Gamble continued.

Portales has a shortage of housing, which is beginning to be “a real detriment” to enrollment growth, he said.