Despite the hardships brought on by the current economical outlook, Missouri Western is enjoying its fifth consecutive year of record enrollment.
Undergraduate enrollment numbers are currently at 5,665, which is a 3.6 percent increase from last fall’s enrollment numbers of 5,470 students. Over the past five years, Western has seen an increase of 12.3 percent, a figure that makes people like Jeanne Daffron, provost and vice president for academic and student affairs, very excited.
“There’s an energy when you have an organization that’s growing,” Daffron said. “[Record enrollment] adds to that energy and enthusiasm.”
Aside from the enrollment numbers, the number of credit hours being taken is up by 5.6 percent from 63,382 to 66,922; the number of graduate students has increased from 65 to 70 and the overall freshmen enrollment is 2,575. 4,090 of the enrolled students are full-time, with 1,645 part-time and, in terms of male and female, 3,330 female students compared to 2,405 male students.
Daffron feels that Western’s success can be credited not so much to the failing economy but rather the many things the university has to offer to students.
“Geographically, we’re in a very good place. For our undergraduate students, being in a city this size is an advantage because there are part-time jobs,” Daffron said. “Our emphasis on applied learning is important to people; it prepares them to be immediately productive in the workforce. As students are looking at universities, that may be something they’re thinking a little bit more about.”
Accompanying those sentiments, Director of Admissions Howard McCauley feels that the current status of the university is helping attract students to Western; in particular, McCauley feels that the graduate programs being developed on campus and recent projects such as the Incubator, Remington Hall and the Chiefs Camp are all adding to the university’s prestige.
“Western is a hot university,” McCauley said. “Western is right at the front [of the pack] and we’re not going to take a backseat to anyone.”
While much good is coming out of the increased enrollment, some on campus are witnessing the negatives firsthand. Bob Griffin is a history major who commutes 40 miles to campus everyday and, for the first time in three years, is seeing a major problem with the parking situation on campus.
“Parking is severely inadequate,” Griffin said. “It’s frustrating having to park halfway across campus and then walk one-third a mile to my class. I don’t totally fault the university. I understand it’s all affected by the influx of students but, in the three years I’ve been here, I’ve never seen a problem as bad as it is now.”
McCauley, while sympathetic, is quick to note that in comparison to universities and colleges like Northwest and Central Missouri, Western is much better off in the parking situation. However, parking isn’t the only growing issue to stem out of record enrollment.
In a previous story, President Robert Vartabedian expressed his concerns that the faculty and staff had been stretched in terms of dealing with the increased number of students on campus and feels that Western will probably have to hire new faculty and staff members in the near future.
Daffron couldn’t agree more, stating that the faculty and staff have done as much as they can without sacrificing that which is most important; a quality education. Nevertheless, she feels that Western, now and in the future, can face those problems down and come out on top.
“You always hate to think about those things as problems,” Daffron said. “They’re [real challenges] and it affects people’s lives on a daily basis. However, we can be creative and figure out what to do about those things.”