Growing numbers of students of color and high school students taking college courses helped boost enrollment at the 32 Minnesota State Colleges and Universities by nearly 3 percent over the last year, officials said [Oct. 10] as they released enrollment figures.

This fall, the state college and university system has 186,150 students, an increase of 5,302 students from last fall's enrollment of 180,848. Last year, enrollment increased by 4.5 percent.

"This modest enrollment increase reflects both the changing demographics of Minnesotaand a growing interest in college courses among high school students,"said Chancellor James H. McCormick. "We have been working hard to increase access to higher education. Our new and expanded programs to recruit and retain students, particularly from under represented groups, may be bearing fruit. We must make sure more young people complete high school and enroll in a post-secondary program to ensure Minnesota remains competitive."

The number of students of color this fall grew by 8.6 percent, from 25,273 to27,446, while enrollment of white students was up 2.6 percent. In recent years,the colleges and universities have expanded programs to recruit and retain more students from under represented groups – students of color, low-income students and students who are the first in their families to attend college. These programs help students better prepare for college and succeed once they enter college.

Whitney Harris, executive director of multiculturalism and diversity, said "We now have a more systematic approach to recruiting and retaining students from under represented groups and promoting welcoming environments on our campuses.These numbers provide evidence that this approach is making a difference."

Enrollment of high school students in college courses, through the Post-Secondary Enrollment Options program, grew by 4.5 percent. Under Minnesota law, high school students can take courses tuition-free at the state's public colleges and universities. Last year, the Legislature appropriated some funds to school districts to bolster the program.

The number of students taking online courses, which includes credit and non credit courses, grew by 16 percent to 39,250 this fall. The system offers about 200 programs completely or predominantly online through Minnesota Online(www.minnesotaonline.org), the largest provider of online education in the state.

Full-year-equivalent enrollment is projected to increase by almost 1 percent for the current year.(Full-year-equivalent enrollment is calculated by adding the credits taken by all students and dividing by the number of credits considered to be a full-time course load – 30 credits per year for undergraduates and 20 credits for graduate students.)  The colleges and universities project a full-year-equivalent enrollment of 141,027 for the current year, compared with the actual full-year-equivalent enrollment of 139,884 for the 2007-2008 academic year.

The numbers released [Oct. 10] were the official enrollment count of students taking credit-based courses on the 30th day of the fall semester.

To see the report, go to:

http://www.mnscu.edu/media/newsreleases/2008/pdf/Fall_08_30thday_enrollment.

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