Record enrollment… again

Written by Muleskinner Staff

By LEAH WANKUM
Managing Editor
(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) — For the fifth year running, the University of Central Missouri has seen record enrollment.
Head count is at 14,395 students, a 7.6 percent increase from last year, according to official census data at the university. UCM had a 1.7 percent increase at the undergrad level and a 24.1 percent increase at the graduate level.
Mike Godard, vice provost for enrollment management, said some of the major increases for the past several years are in international and graduate enrollments. The international student population has also had a 46.7 percent increase from 1,899 students last year to 2,786 this fall.
“Our total graduate head count, over the past five years, has increased by 2,223 students, which actually represents a little over 102 percent increase over that five-year period of time,” Godard said. “And our international student population, this will be both undergraduate and graduate combined for the international students, has increased by 2,228 students, so significant increases in both of those two areas.”
Ambrose addressed the large influx of students in the international center and graduate school when he spoke at his State of the University Address.
“Students are coming here from across the globe in record numbers to take advantage of programs in areas such as computer science and computer information systems,” Ambrose said. “This is a direct reflection of our reputation for quality programs, the hard work and dedication of our faculty, and our recruitment efforts both at home and overseas.”
Godard said it’s no surprise that the mathematics and computer science department as well as the accountancy and computer information systems department have seen substantial growth, especially at the graduate level.
“And so, math and computer science with a 47.2 percent increase, and accountancy and computer information systems a 21.1,” Godard said. “We’re also seeing the school of technology with industrial management being another very popular degree program at 11 percent.”
Alice Greife, dean of the UCM College of Health, Science and Technology, said the mathematics and computer science department hired 18 new faculty to prepare for the increase in students, most of which are international.
“These are primarily international students,” Greife said. “It’s trending nationwide. They’re coming from a variety of different countries. Ours happens to be primarily from India.
“International students value an American education. Many of them receive a different quality of education in their home countries. That’s where our largest increase has been, due to the international students.”
Xiaodong Yue, chair of the mathematics and computer science department, said the department has been experiencing growth for the last two or three years, so the 47.2 percent increase comes as no surprise. Popular programs are the master’s program in computer science and the new bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity, which already has 18 students enrolled in its first semester this fall.
“Most of our students took classes over there (at the Summit Center) and they did a tremendous job to accommodate the large number of students because it’s a very difficult job just accommodating students from different countries,” Yue said.
Roger Best, dean of the UCM Harmon College of Business and Professional Studies, said the college has been fortunate to experience a large increase in the master’s program in computer information systems and information technology.
“We’ve been equally fortunate to have a supportive administration who have allowed us to add faculty to accommodate this growth,” Best said. “Including last year, we’ve added three new faculty to the CIS program and have filled three vacancies in our accountancy program.  Additionally, all of our current faculty have gone above and beyond to ensure this increased student demand has been met with high quality instruction and engagement.”
Someswar Kesh, chair of the school of accountancy and computer information systems, said the school hired 13 adjunct professors to accommodate for the 21.1 percent increase in students. Kesh said the primary reason for the increase is the popularity of the master’s degree in CIS and information technology.
Godard said much of the increase in enrollment is retention-driven.
“(Retention is) what we feel is critically important to make sure that our students cross that finish line and that they’re continuing to be successful in terms of earning a degree here at UCM,” he said.
Godard said several initiatives across campus over the past couple of years are working to increase the retention rate, such as utilizing more predictive analytics to help students complete their degrees.
The university has also had a 48 percent increase in the number of graduates, resulting in the addition of a second ceremony for spring commencement last year.
“We can see that yes, a large majority of this is due from our increased graduate student population and awarding more graduate degrees, but we’re still seeing a nice steady increase in terms of our undergraduate degrees awarded,” Godard said. “And I think we’ll continue on that path and hopefully, you can see an enhancement in that with these cohorts to start to come through with the 15-to-finish.”