Spring enrollment at Western Carolina University is at an all-time high as the number of students at WCU this semester has topped 9,600 for the first time in university history.
WCU shattered its fall enrollment record in September, with 10,107 students (a 5 percent increase over last year’s tally of 9,608 students) on the rolls for the first semester of the 2013-14 academic year.
Spring enrollment numbers at institutions of higher education typically are lower than fall enrollment as some students don’t return for a second semester for reasons that range from academic to personal, university officials say.
Preliminary census data compiled by the university’s Office of Institutional Planning and Effectiveness indicates that enrollment for the 2014 spring semester is 9,649. That represents a 3.07 percent increase over last spring’s enrollment of 9,361, and is the highest on record for spring semester, said Tim Metz, assistant vice chancellor for institutional planning and effectiveness.
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.
The increase in spring enrollment seems to be driven, at least in part, by a high percentage of first-semester freshmen who are returning to campus in the spring for a second semester, Metz said. This year’s fall-to-spring freshman retention rate is 90.02 percent, a slight decrease from the spring 2013 rate of 91.23 percent but still above the spring 2012 retention rate of 87.53 percent.
University officials point to ongoing efforts to increase the number of students who remain at WCU beyond the freshman year as a factor in recent improvements in retention rates, which also are boosting total enrollment.
In addition to returning students, the start of the 2014 spring semester also saw 42 new freshmen and 409 new transfer students enroll at WCU.