LINCOLN—Opening more sections of freshman courses, finding creative solutions for student housing, having about 100 more students volunteer to serve the community than in previous years: these are the sorts of problems Union College administrators and student leaders rejoice in. Union College's enrollment is the highest it has been since 1983. The total student body grew to 982 with a full-time equivalence of 927.8, up from 930 students and 863.3 FTE last fall. The number of first-time freshmen this year is 194 compared to 177 in fall 2005.
"The national trend in enrollment growth has been an increase of non-traditional students," said Malcolm Russell, vice president for Academic Administration. "However, our growth has been among traditional students, ages 18-22. Young people across the country and literally around the world appreciate the values that Union stands for: small classes, teachers who know their names and academic advisors who care about a student's progress in life, not just meeting graduation requirements."
Union's campus has become a home-away-from home for a diverse group of students from 46 states and 30 countries. Four out of five Union students are from outside of Nebraska, and about nine percent of the student body came from outside of the United States. That's a higher percentage of non-resident students than any other college in the state.
The increased enrollment coincides with the implementation of more stringent admissions standards. All regularly admitted students must now have a cumulative grade point average of 2.5 and an ACT score of 18. While these are not as high as elite universities, they are higher than most of the schools pulling from the same demographic of high school graduates as Union College. "Attracting 352 new students to our campus and raising our admissions standards in the same year is really exciting," said Rob Weaver, vice president for Enrollment and Student Financial Services.
Academic areas that experienced the most growth were in the Division of Health Sciences and the Division of Human Development. According to Weaver, 49 new students declared an international rescue and relief major, the only bachelor's program of its kind in the United States. Of the more traditional fields, psychology experienced the greatest percentage of growth, with 18 new students opting for that major compared to four new psychology majors last year. Growth in the health sciences will continue in the spring as well; the nursing program will double enrollment as the department begins admitting students at the beginning of both semesters, rather than solely in the fall.
"Union's climb in enrollment is one of many indicators that the campus is blessed with the momentum of progress," said David Smith, Union College president. "Enrollment growth is energizing all areas of campus, and I am grateful for the efforts of the many people who made this possible."