Growth is particularly strong at the graduate level, as UNK offerings continue to attract students who seek career or personal development through advanced education. Total enrollment in graduate programs increased by 12.5 percent, to a total of 1,619, as both online and on-campus numbers rose compared to last year.
Undergraduate results are somewhat mixed. Overall, undergraduate headcount is down by 1.4 percent, mainly because of declines in part-time, nonresident, and international students that produced a smaller first-time, full-time freshman class of 969 students. That group is 6.6 percent smaller than last year’s comparatively large class. Even so, the fall 2009 freshman class is larger than the groups which entered UNK in fall 2006 and 2007. Freshman representation from key areas in Nebraska is stable or rose, and there is a notable rise in freshman from the Omaha region. Undergraduate transfers also increased by 14.4 percent, to 334, or the best result since fall 2005.
Although the freshman class is smaller than last year’s, its average ACT score is the highest ever achieved by an entering class at the Kearney campus. Additionally, numbers of new enrolled Honors Program freshmen rose to the highest level in six years (145). These high academic achievers bring with them an average ACT score of 28.2.
UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen expressed optimism about the numbers: “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 a 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. To more than hold our own in that kind of an environment is a real achievement.”
Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Student Life Charles Bicak, agreed: “When we grow, as we’ve done this year at a rate not seen for some time, it means that we are responding well to the higher education needs of those we serve. As enrollment increases at UNK, so has the quality of incoming students evidenced by rising ACT scores and an ever-stronger Honors Program. UNK competes well for good students and those who seek a challenging curriculum. New students are introduced early on to the opportunities for learning with excellent faculty in all areas across campus.”
“The numbers,” Chancellor Kristensen said, “tell a great story about our quality, strengths, and appeal, but they also outline our challenges and demonstrate areas where work is still needed. UNK has become an increasingly attractive university choice, thanks to high quality academics and an improving physical campus, and that puts us in a good position to attract and retain even greater numbers of students as we go forward.”