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WCU treads cautiously in light of record enrollment

Western Carolina University will target transfer, graduate and distance learning students to help grow its enrollment without creating greater strain on its residence and dining halls.

This fall, enrollment at WCU reached a record 9,608, a 2.7 percent increase compared to fall 2011. Of those, 7,500 attend classes on campus in Cullowhee. The number of freshman who returned to the university for their sophomore year has also increased.

Although growth is good for the university, too much can leave it unprepared and unable to accommodate all its students — and WCU is already struggling with a lack of available student housing and limited room in its dining halls.

Provost Angi Brenton said the university is not in a position to build more and briefly discussed how to control its student population at WCU’s Board of Trustees meeting last week.

By targeting transfer, graduate and distance learning students, WCU can boost its enrollment numbers without adding people to its residence halls.

Transfer students and graduate students are typically older and live off-campus, whereas all freshmen are required to live on-campus.

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Transfer students allow for quicker turnover among its student population as well. Transfer students only spend two or three years at the university rather than the four to five years it takes the average student starting out as a freshman.

Distance learning students take classes online and also do not required a provided living space.

WCU is not the only school looking to contain its enrollment as the number of high school graduates in the state increases. Some colleges, such as the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, are already tightening their admission requirements and accepting fewer applicants to prevent overcrowding in their residence halls and classrooms.

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