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UNK enrollment highest in 10 years
Kylie Tielke
Antelope Staff

As the economy continues to slow down, UNK’s enrollment continues to increase. The real question is, “Is this increased enrollment caused from the economy alone, or because UNK is an exceptional university?”

Enrollment has increased this year again by 1.6 percent for the sixth year in a row, according to Dusty Newton, director of undergraduate recruitment and admissions. The current enrollment at UNK, according to Newton, is 6,650— the highest enrollment of students since 1999.

Newton says growth is particularly strong at the graduate level, which has increased by 12.5 percent as both online and on-campus enrollment numbers have risen since last year. Currently, 1,619 of the record number 6,650 students are graduate students.

“The graduate program has increased steadily over the years because we have good, quality programs and they are professional programs which say a lot about the quality of our institution,” Newton said.

Another significant increase, according to Newton, is the number of students who come from the Omaha Metro Area— which has increased by 52 percent.

“This is a real improvement for UNK because over 50 percent of high school seniors live in the eastern area of Nebraska including Omaha and Lincoln,” Newton said.

A major question of interest concerning these high enrollment numbers is why? Could the slow economy be forcing individuals to go back to school to obtain their degree?

Deborah Bridges, professor of agribusiness said, “What we know is that many people are choosing to come back to school after going out into the job force or after four years. Some are coming back to get new skills, so yes the slowing down of the economy is influencing people.”

According to Newton, a good reflector of economic influence is the fact that students are staying in-state and students are going to two-year institutions locally before transferring out.

“Our freshmen class this year is actually down by 6 percent, but so is our nonresident enrollment. We have seen a downfall in the number of students who come from out-of-state especially from Kansas this year,” Newton said.

According to Newton, UNK has seen a slight increase in nontraditional students, especially through online education.

“UNK has a program where people can come back after getting their bachelor’s degree and get their teaching certificate online, so we have seen an increase in this,” Newton said.
According to Bridges, even though the economy is slow, the students in her field who have graduated have all found the job they wanted.

 “Students who are aware of how to look for a job and who are flexible in what they take can find jobs. They might start out low, but there are jobs out there,” Bridges said.

UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen spoke to 10-11 News about enrollment increases. “It is certainly good news that UNK’s overall momentum continues with significant growth in the total number of students served. We are proud of our role as top quality university serving citizens of Nebraska and beyond. This has been a very challenging year for all students, as the economic downturn complicates their choices about attending or continuing in college.”

According to Bridges, school is expensive, but the cost of attending lasts the rest of a person’s life.

“Education is something no one can take away from you. The biggest benefit of having a bachelor’s degree is that you learn to be a learner which you can take with you for the rest of your life,” Bridges said.

Whether it’s the downturn of the economy or the quality of our institution, UNK continues to increase in numbers and has hit the highest enrollment in 10 years this fall.

“The challenge economically is whether there is a job to come out to after four years. It is important within the University of Nebraska system and the government to have a concentrated effort to increase the college going rate, and we are actively working to do this,” Newton said.

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