Helena Rodriguez: Freedom Newspapers
Although the summer session is about to wind up at Eastern New Mexico University, ENMU President Steven Gamble said this is the college’s busiest time of year as the university aims for another record-breaking fall enrollment.
ENMU has reportedly seen a steady increase in fall enrollment since 1997 and last fall the school saw the largest enrollment, with 3,959 students enrolled, since 1993 when there were 3,973 students.
According to Gamble, a recent tuition hike (6.4 percent for residents and 2.06 percent for nonresidents) should not have an impact on enrollment this fall, nor should the uncertain future of Cannon Air Force Base, which was recommended for closure on May 13 by the Department of Defense. Gamble did say that if Cannon were closed, that could affect future enrollment, but he believes there is a good chance of Cannon being removed from the base closure list.
In the meantime, officials at ENMU are actively recruiting students. Potential students have until Sept. 2 to gain admission for the fall semester, although Gamble pointed out that the college would like to have students enrolled by the first day of classes on Aug. 29. Students should also fill out financial aid forms as soon as possible.
Officials have also been busy trying to fill faculty vacancies, most of which are in the College of Business, and in ensuring that the campus is spruced up and ready to welcome students.
“We are doing everything from painting residence hall rooms to making sure our technology and computers are up and running,” Gamble said. “We do have several faculty positions to fill, especially in the College of Business … and on (Wednesday), our football players hit town, so we’re trying to make sure everything for them is taken care of, from food services to residence halls to checking our heating and cooling systems.”
Gamble also noted that a series of back-to-school staff orientation meetings are in the planning process.
Donna Kittrell, director of enrollment services, said the Admissions Office has been busy recruiting as well as helping students get enrolled for the fall. As far as the selling points for getting students into ENMU, Kittrell said, “It’s our concern for students and the committed faculty and staff that care about each student’s success. In addition, we offer very good academic scholarships.”
Gamble said that the school does not expect the tuition increase to have a negative effect on enrollment, noting that the hike was less than those at other state colleges.
“It is still a tremendous bargain when you compare it to any other New Mexico or Texas schools,” Gamble said. “We always hold tuition as low as we can. There are schools that go well over 10 percent.”
The majority of ENMU students this fall will be returning students with the bulk of new faces being first-time freshmen. Gamble roughly estimates there will be somewhere around 550 freshmen.
While the school is hoping for an enrollment increase, Gamble said it does anticipate a good or even better retention rate compared to last fall.
“We anticipate our retention rate to be at 60 percent, or if we’re fortunate, a little above 60,” he said. “The year before it was at 59 percent.”
In addition, he said the school expects to see a continued increase in Hispanic students. “As the demographics go up in the eastern part of the state, that will be reflected in our enrollment,” Gamble said. “Last year, for the first time in our history, we had over 1,000 Hispanic students enrolled.”
He said that ENMU’s new Spanish Web site and phone lines may not be actual deciding factors on whether or not a student attends ENMU, but he said these services make it easy for parents.
“It is not uncommon for some parents of these students to not have a complete mastery of the English language, so that’s who it helps,” he said.
Major events for the fall opening include Dawg Days, orientation and games for new students from Aug. 25-26, and a watermelon bash to help students feel at home. From there on, Gamble said it will then be business as usual.