UAF expects enrollment increase

Posted: Sunday, April 09, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The University of Alaska Fairbanks is expecting a small but significant increase in freshman enrollment expected for the coming school year.

''We're probably looking at a 1 to 3 percent increase this fall,'' said Mike Mills, UAF's director of admissions and enrollment management. ''That's fairly modest, but from our perspective it's a great step.'' Mills says the university's marketing effort may be stemming a long slide in enrollment, which did pick up slightly this year.

As of Friday, UAF's admissions office had received 740 freshmen applications, up from 614 a year ago, when the school increased its enrollment for the first time in half a decade.

''We increased slightly, which is a well-kept secret,'' Mills said of the school's overall increase of 15 students last fall. ''That's less than half a percentage point, but it's important because it's the first increase since 1994.''

UAF's attendance began to decline midway through the 1990s. The school was top-heavy with seniors who weren't replaced as rapidly as they graduated, Mills said, and UAF was also losing students between their freshman and sophomore years.

Last year, UAF saw a 4 percent increase in the number of freshmen returning for their sophomore year.

This year, the school expects to see more high school seniors take advantage of the Alaska Scholars Program, a new program offering free tuition to students graduating in the top 10 percent of their class. More than 100 scholars attended the school in the program's first year, and Mills projects an increase to 150 next fall.

UAF now has a database with the names and addresses of 26,000 high schoolers--about 60 percent of the state's secondary school population. Of the state's 8,000 seniors, 6,000 are in the database.

Potential students ''are getting bombarded with things from UAF, and boy is that a change from two years ago,'' Mills said.

''I have to think we're reaching Alaska high school kids with the message that we've got good programs and we're interested in them coming here.''

Mills believes the mailings and television commercials aimed at enticing students statewide have led to the enrollment upturn.

The university enrollment fell to its lowest recent level in the fall of 1998, when 8,235 students attended. That was down nearly 13 percent from the 9,416 students in 1994.

''I think it's a demonstration of overall health, and it has funding ramifications,'' UAF Faculty Senate President Ron Gatterdam said of the increase. ''The university could actually handle quite a few more students.''

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