By Justin Much
They’re coming. They’re staying. They’re graduating.
That’s the news released Thursday by Western Oregon University in conjunction with the Oregon University System. WOU reported that its enrollment remained near its 2010 school-record level, student retention inched up from one year ago, and last year’s graduating class was the largest in the school’s history.
WOU’s official enrollment for the 2012-13 academic year is 6,187, about a score fewer than its record-setting mark in 2010-11. The leveling off comes after five consecutive years of increases, from 4,889 in 2006 to 6,233 in 2010-11. Official enrollment last year was 6,217.
“We had some pretty strong growth for a number of years, and now it’s kind of slowed down a little bit,” said WOU Associate Provost David McDonald. “We do have the capacity to grow some more, and we’d like to grow about one or two percent each year.”
McDonald said construction of the DeVolder Family Science Center, which is planned to open by fall 2013, will boost the university’s capacity for physical science students.
The school reported a 70.4 percent retention rate, up from 68 percent last year. It graduated a record 1,250 last year, a number that school officials project will increase this year because of larger class sizes and increased retention rates.
“We’re eager to see what we can do to support the 40-40-20 goals,” McDonald said, referring to Oregon’s achievement targets, specified in Senate Bill 253, which aims for 40 percent of Oregonians to have a bachelor’s degree or higher, 40 percent with an associate’s degree or post high-school certificate and 100 percent to be high school graduates by 2025.
“Meeting this target is both an equity and an economic issue for Oregonians,” OUS Chancellor George Pernsteiner said. “We need the companies and the jobs that educated, diverse citizens draw in and keep in a state, and that help stabilize the economic flux that has kept Oregon from bouncing back.”
OUS reported that total enrollment in its eight schools is 101,393, of which 82,953 are full-time students. That total is 1,077 more than in the fall of 2011.
“A lot of credit is due to all of the faculty and staff at our public universities for continuing to successfully serve more students in the classroom and with support services that keep them in college in some very difficult budget times,” Pernsteiner said. “More of our students are facing affordability and life challenges, are juggling work and college, and are returning to school after unemployment or after serving our country in the military.