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March 4, 2005 :: Record Enrollment Continues at State Colleges and Universities This Spring

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Enrollments are up slightly across Oklahoma’s public higher education system this spring compared to this same time last year, building on record enrollments that have been registered for the spring semester during each of the last three years.

According to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education’s Preliminary Enrollment Report for spring 2005, enrollment at Oklahoma public colleges and universities has increased by 1.1 percent or 1,865 students compared to last spring. A total of 171,136 students are enrolled this spring across the state system.

“We are very pleased about this increase. It shows that Oklahomans continue to see the benefits of a college education,” Chancellor Paul G. Risser said. “Not only do individuals improve their own lives but they help the state improve as well. Having more college graduates in the state is critical for Oklahoma’s economic future.”

The state’s regional universities have the largest increase in enrollment among the three tiers at 2.5 percent. Oklahoma Panhandle State University, Goodwell, leads the way with an 8.9 percent increase over spring 2004, followed by East Central University, Ada, at 5.3 percent and Langston University at 5.1 percent.

Enrollment within the research tier – Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma – is up 0.2 percent compared to last spring, while the state’s community colleges are reporting an increase of 0.7 percent. Northern Oklahoma College, Tonkawa, is up 11.1 percent, the only institution in the state system reporting a double-digit increase.

The report also shows a 4.1 percent decrease in the number of first-time freshmen enrolled at the state’s public colleges and universities. This spring there are 9,544 first-time freshmen enrolled compared to 9,947 for spring 2004.

ECU and Cameron University, Lawton, are the only two institutions statewide reporting increases in first-time freshmen this spring. ECU has an increase of 19.7 percent in the number of first-time freshmen, while Cameron is at 3.3 percent.

The enrollment increase this semester is just one of many during the last five years that have boosted the state’s college enrollment to record levels, levels that have convinced the State Regents and college presidents to pursue a $500 million capital bond issue during the last two legislative sessions.

Higher education officials say the record enrollments are putting a severe burden on overcrowded and outdated facilities and that the capital bond issue would alleviate much of the problem.

The capital bond issue would pay for 140 projects in 36 communities, including new and renovated classrooms; infrastructure expansions and upgrades; new or substantially renovated science and research buildings; and libraries and fine arts centers. The bond would also allow institutions to meet strict Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements and other safety and access requirements.

Senate Bill 745, supporting the $500 million capital bond issue, passed unanimously in the state Senate on Feb. 22 and is pending action by the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

House Bill 2050, an alternative plan to the proposed capital bond issue, will be heard on the House floor sometime next week.

Proceeds from the educational lottery approved by voters last November are the funding source identified for the bond payments.

If approved by legislators, the bond issue would be the only significant capital funding infusion that Oklahoma’s public college and universities have seen since other statewide bond issues were passed in 1967 and 1992.