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UWRF on track to enroll large freshman class, despite earlier concerns

Falcon News Service

March 1, 2017

Despite concerns from University of Wisconsin leaders about a decline in graduating high school seniors, freshman enrollment at UW-River Falls is looking up.

According to data from UWRF’s admission office, as of Feb. 1 the university had admitted 1,974 incoming freshmen for the 2017-2018 school year, up 13 percent from this time last year. The number comes as good news for university officials who have been working to increase enrollment after struggling to balance the university’s budget during a period of decline and a tuition freeze.

Higher enrollment is also a welcomed sight for the university’s admission counselors who have worked to offset the declining number of high school graduates in the region due to lower birth rates in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Sarah Egerstrom, UWRF’s executive director of Admissions & New Student and Family Programs, said the higher enrollment is a result of collaboration across campus.

“We’re working closely with University Communications and Marketing,” Egerstrom said. “Our branding and brand awareness as an institution is continuing to reinforce that UW-River Falls is a great place to live and learn.”

The higher numbers are also good news for the university’s colleges, which are all seeing an increase in freshman enrollment. The university’s largest, the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), which experienced a budget cut of $1.5 million in 2016, has seen a 31 percent increase in admitted students compared to this time last year. Dean Brad Caskey said the increase in student interest can be attributed to improvements made to all of the university’s colleges.

“We have new majors that we didn’t have before that are attracting students that wouldn’t have come here before,” Caskey said.

The university has also stepped up its campus visit days, allowing prospective students to meet with faculty and current students within the programs of their interest.

“This has grown in popularity so departments are sending multiple people over now to meet with the students,” Caskey said.

CAS offers a majority of the university’s general education courses, and last year’s budget cut created uncertainty about whether the college would be able to offer enough courses to sustain the freshman class of 2016-2017. Officials were able to resolve the issue and offer enough courses for the year. However, with an even larger class expected next fall, Caskey said he wonders if the college might run into trouble.

“We have to figure out how we make sure that, if the yield of these students is what we expect it to be, that they have enough classes,” Caskey said.

University officials feel confident enrollment numbers will continue to increase, creating one of the university’s largest freshman classes ever.

“I’m pretty confident we’ll hit our enrollment target for the fall. We’ve been very intentional with our recruitment,” Egerstrom said.

UWRF’s admissions office releases the latest data on admitted students on the first of every month. UWRF officials said the next few months will be telling for where the university is headed.