Enrollment up, retention down at ENMU

By Tony Parra

A busy schedule during the New Mexico Legislative Session and varying news on the spring enrollment numbers were the topics of concern for Eastern New Mexico University Board of Regents members on Friday.
The regents met with Eastern New Mexico president Steven Gamble and other ENMU representatives to discuss the status of capital outlay projects.
“In the last three years we have been fortunate in receiving money to improve our campuses (ENMU-Portales, ENMU-Roswell and Ruidoso Instructional Center),” Gamble said. “We anticipate several hundreds of thousands of dollars from capital outlay.”
Gamble said it’s tough to know exactly how much money ENMU will receive from capital outlay projects and won’t know until Gov. Bill Richardson signs or vetoes the project funding. Gamble said he has been making frequent trips, spending three days in Santa Fe and spending two days in Portales during the weeks the Legislature is in session.
Gamble also reviewed the enrollment numbers to the regents. The good news: Spring enrollment has risen to 3,692, up from the 3,491 students enrolled in the spring semester of 2004. The highest enrollment number since the spring of 1994, when there were 3,778 students.
According to Gamble, it is semester credit hours generated by the students which the state of New Mexico relies on to provide funding for universities. Gamble said the funding formula uses the semester credit hours to determine how much money the university will receive. Gamble said the semester credit hours will generate approximately $1.7 million new dollars.
“This is wonderful news,” Gamble said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve generated this much money. We can apply it wherever our needs are.”
The number of male students rose almost 12 percent from 1343 in the spring semester of 2004 to 1503 in the spring semester of 2005. The number of female students rose from 2,148 in the spring semester of 2004 to 2,189 in the spring semester of 2005.
Gamble also reported the bad news: Retention rate percentages have been decreasing. The number of first-time full-time students in the fall semester of 2004 was 581 and the number fell to 454 for the 2005 spring semester, leaving a retention rate of 78 percent. It is an 8 percent decrease of the retention rate from fall of 1999 to spring of 2000, in which the rate was 86.1 percent.
“We’re doing everything we can to tackle this problem,” Gamble said. “We’re talking to freshmen, we’re looking up student profiles of the students who didn’t return.”
Judy Armstrong, ENMU-Roswell Provost, reported high enrollment numbers for ENMU-Roswell, also. Armstrong said 2004 fall semester numbers rose to an all-time high of 4,241 students.