UMUC leads way in enrollment rise

November 24, 2006|By Karine Abalyan | Karine Abalyan,Capital News Service

Enrollment at the University System of Maryland is up 5 percent from last fall, with most of the additional students concentrated at the University of Maryland University College, which serves nontraditional students.

About 6,580 more students came to the University System of Maryland this semester than in fall 2005. Of that number, 5,352 are attending UMUC, according to the system's preliminary enrollment report. Figures don't include overseas students.

The UMUC head count reached 33,096 this fall, exceeding projections by almost 2,500, said Gayle Fink, director of institutional research at the University System of Maryland.

"They were targeted to be a growth institution, and they overachieved those targets," Fink said.

UMUC, long known for its distance-learning programs designed for members of the military, is striving to attract more professionals seeking career enhancement courses or second degrees.

A combination of part-time and online programs draws people with busy schedules. About 80 percent of newcomers this year are taking online-only courses, said Tatiana Kweder, assistant vice president of institutional planning, research and accountability.

The number of students ages 18 to 25 is also on the rise, bringing down the average student age in the Adelphi-based university from 35 to 30.

Students at UMUC account for almost a quarter of the system's population, compared with 13 percent 10 years ago.

State funding partly explains this surge, officials said. Of $14.9 million set aside for enrollment growth at the system this year, $1.4 million was for UMUC.

With additional funds, the institution improved its student-support services, said Andrea Hart, executive assistant to the president. Better customer service, for instance, ensured "that people received the type of attention they needed to get into school," she said. The enrollment funding initiative "was a new strategy for USM and the state, and I am very pleased by the results of this collaboration," said Chancellor William E. Kirwan.

New leadership also helped boost enrollment, officials said. Susan C. Aldridge, appointed president in 2005, said in a statement last fall that UMUC "is uniquely positioned for exponential growth" and has since worked to increase enrollment.

UMUC hopes to double in size by 2009, said Provost Nicholas Allen, adding that the university, which relies primarily on tuition and fees, must seek additional sources of revenue to accommodate its growing student body.

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