Spring semester enrollment crests 10,000 students for first time in institution’s history

WCU's spring enrollment has topped 10,000 for the first time in school history.

WCU’s spring enrollment has topped 10,000 for the first time in school history.

Records continue to fall at Western Carolina University, where total spring semester enrollment has topped the 10,000-student mark for the first time in university history.

Preliminary census data compiled by the Office of Institutional Planning and Effectiveness indicate that enrollment for the 2017 spring semester stands at 10,099. That figure represents a 4.4 percent increase over last spring’s enrollment of 9,673, said Tim Metz, assistant vice chancellor for institutional planning and effectiveness.

The spring enrollment surge comes after WCU set a fall enrollment record in September, with 10,805 students on the books, a 4.5 percent jump in the total student population over the previous fall’s tally. The fall enrollment increase was driven, at least in part, by a significant spike in the size of the incoming freshman class, which was composed of 1,913 freshmen. That topped the old mark of 1,859 students set in 1972 during an enrollment boom near the end of the Vietnam War era.

In addition, the Graduate School saw an 11.3 percent increase in enrollment, with 1,591 students on the rolls for spring semester, up from last spring’s count of 1,430.

Spring enrollment numbers at institutions of higher education typically are lower than fall enrollment because some students complete their degree requirements during the fall semester and participate in December commencement ceremonies while others do not return in the spring for reasons that range from academic to personal, Metz said.

In addition to the record fall enrollment, among the factors behind the increase in spring enrollment is a higher percentage of first-semester freshmen who returned to campus in the spring for a second semester, Metz said. This year’s fall-to-spring freshman retention rate is 91.37 percent, up slightly over the spring 2016 rate of 91.01 percent.

University officials point to continuing efforts to increase the number of students who remain at WCU beyond the freshman year as a factor in recent gains in retention rates, which also are boosting total enrollment. Higher fall-to-spring rates of retention for freshmen typically also indicate that a larger percentage of students will return for their second year of study.

Although the university’s official census day comes after the 10th class day of the semester, enrollment numbers are considered preliminary until they have been submitted to the University of North Carolina General Administration.

With the spring semester in full swing, WCU is already looking toward the 2017 fall semester and next year’s freshman class. The university will hold two Open House events in the coming months on Saturday, Feb. 25, and Saturday, March 25.

Hosted by the Office of Undergraduate Admission, Open House gives visitors a chance to tour the campus, learn about the university’s wide array of award-winning academic programs, and find out the important details of topics such as financial aid.

For interested students who cannot attend the Open House events, weekday campus tours are available year-round by appointment for students and their families.

Preregistration for Open House and more information are available by going to openhouse.wcu.edu or by calling the Office of Undergraduate Admission at 828-227-7317 or toll-free 877-928-4968.