Portland State enrollment increases again

Portland State enrollment continues to rise, as recent fourth-week enrollment numbers show significant gains in several key demographics, including engineering and sciences, international and minority students.

The university saw an 11.2 percent growth in the freshman class over fall 2001. Students majoring in engineering and the sciences grew 16.7 percent over last year.

Additionally, minority enrollment is up 11.4 percent, with a 13 percent increase among Hispanics, an 11.4 percent in African American students, an 8 percent increase among Native Americans, and a 9.9 percent increase among Asian/Pacific Islanders.

There was also a 13 percent growth in international student headcount.

“Engineering headcount growth is outpacing the university,” Assistant Dean for Enrollment and Outreach of the College of Engineering and Computer Science Marcia Fischer said, “We are significantly up.”

“Why? Because we have an aggressive recruiting campaign that is paying off,” Fischer said.

Enrollment of engineering and computer sciences students is up 15.1 percent, which Fischer credits to increased outreach and new scholarship opportunities.

“Here at the College of Engineering and Computer Science we have the goal of doubling our enrollment by 2007 from 98, and due to the growth that we’ve experienced this year we’re ahead of schedule,” Fischer said.

Much of the growth for the college has been in graduate students. In past years, undergraduate and graduate growth has been comparable, this year undergraduate numbers increased from 1,325 to 1,478 students an 11 percent increase, while graduate rolls increased 380 to 486, a 27 percent increase.

Fischer points out that economic factors have brought students back to the university from the workplace, or encouraged them to stay in school.

“We are benefiting from the economy, people are returning to school, or going on to graduate degrees instead of going into the workforce,” Fischer said.

Dawn White, director of international education services, is encouraged by the increase in international students.

“We’ve seen steady increases in our international student enrollment in the past five years so this the continuation of a trend,” White said.

Increased international student enrollment is especially remarkable when the national political landscape is making obtaining student visas increasingly difficult.

White emphasized the United States is the first choice for international students seeking education.

“I hope that we can continue to attract international students because they add such an important dimension to the student body,” she said.

White also said that the prominent role that international studies plays at Portland State does much to invite students from abroad and make them feel more welcome.

Agnes Hoffman, associate vice provost for enrollment management and student affairs, said that growth in out-of-state students was a new component of the university’s overall growth pattern.

“An increasing number [of students] are coming from out of state, and the students who are coming from out of state are coming from the western region,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman attributes this to Portland’s increasing reputation as a livable city, Portland State’s increasing reputation as a top-notch university, and increased outreach on the part of recruiters.

Hoffman described the work that was done to spark these enrollment gains in recent years, “we made a number of changes, one significant change was we engaged in a significant amount of out of state travel,” she said.

“We made more intentional visits in California to high schools there and college fairs,” Hoffman said, adding the evidence of increasing numbers of California residents attending PSU suggests those efforts have been successful.

Of course reaching out to students will only be successful if

recruiters are persuasive, and Hoffman believes significant gains have been made in clarifying PSU’s unique advantages.

“Over the last five years we’ve really honed our message about the quality of the institution,” Hoffman said.

While economic factors have aided in enrollment thus far, the tuition surcharge set to take effect winter term will signal a 10 percent increase in tuition for students, and is expected to hurt enrollment.

“It will make it more difficult for our Oregon residents to achieve their educational goals,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman feels that out-of-state enrollment could be hurt by the surcharge as well as the continuing economic turmoil, “the current state of our economy and the state’s support of the universities will make it less attractive [to out-of-state students],” she said.

Parents of out-of-state students have voiced concerns about Oregon’s economy and state funding to Hoffman.

What mitigates the economic worries somewhat for Portland State students is the campus’ urban setting.

“There’s a momentum for Portland State though, because students know if they come here, the part time jobs pay a higher wage in the metropolitan community,” Hoffman said.

Accordingly, Hoffman is optimistic for the future, “At the current time things look good for fall 2003,” she said.

Presently there are 935 students and guests already signed up for Portland State’s Preview Day, occurring this Saturday.

“Last year we had a smaller number in attendance, we expect to have more than a 1,000 people, which is the largest number we’ve had,” Hoffman said.