Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

December 26, 2012

Another record

MSU enrollment tops 11,000 for the first time this fall

The Independent

ASHLAND — Morehead State University has recorded record enrollment for the second consecutive year, surpassing the 11,000 mark for the first time. That’s great news for the university that primarily serves a region with a severe shortage of college-educated adults.

The record enrollment also is an indication that not only is MSU attracting more students, it is doing a better job of keeping them in school once they enroll.

Because so many of its students were not returning to school after their first semester or first year, MSU initiated programs designed specifically to help students be successful once they arrive on campus. The numbers indicate those efforts are having the desired effect.

MSU’s enrollment for the fall semester was 11,172, an increase of 201 from the previous record enrollment of 10,171 in the fall semester of 2011, MSU President Wayne Andrews told the school’s board of regents.

Much of the increase can be attributed to a record number of first-time freshmen attending MSU in the fall semester. The 1,649 first-time freshmen who enrolled for the just completed fall semester is 277 more freshmen that the fall semester of 2011.  That’s a healthy increase that clearly indicates more area residents are at least willing to give college try.  

That’s important because success in today’s world requires individuals have more than just a high school education. Some college or training in a vocational and technical program is essential today, but far too many young people in this region continue to drop out of high school.

Eastern Kentucky has among the nation’s lowest percentage of adults with college degrees. It also has among the nation’s highest percentage of adults without high school degrees. Those two numbers combine to be the number one obstacle to economic growth and development in this region. They must be reversed.

Another reason for the record enrollment is the number of high school students taking college courses though MSU’s Early College Program which enables academically qualified students to dual enroll in college-level courses during their junior and senior years of high school.

While MSU has offered dual enrollment opportunities for several years, the efforts to enhance and expand the Early College Program were a response to Senate Bill 1, passed by the General Assembly in 2009 to strengthen the college-going rate of Kentucky high school graduates and to better align the curriculum between K-12 and post-secondary education.

“The Early College Program is an incredible opportunity for high school students to be better prepared as they enter post-secondary education as full-time university students,” said Dr. Andrews. “The program not only allows them to get a jump-start on courses, reducing their time needed to earn a degree, but also increases affordability. It is possible for a student to complete as many as 24 lower-division college credit hours prior to graduating from high school and do so at no cost to the student.”

A total of 1,630 students from more than 40 high schools participated in Early College in the fall 2012 term. Most of those are area high school students.

The average composite score  on the ACT entrance exam for first-time freshmen enrolled at MSU for the fall semester also improved to 22. While MSU leaders probably would prefer the average score was a bit higher, a 22 average definitely means that more students are arriving on campus ready to do college work and students will need to take fewer remedial classes before they can take courses for credit. Hopefully, that means high schools are doing a better job of preparing students for success as adults.

The record enrollment comes just as Morehead State University has been named one of the best state universities in the South by U.S. News & World Report for the ninth consecutive year and is receiving increasing national recognition for its undergraduate space program.

Those are just a few of the reasons why more people than ever are enrolling in a university where, if you start your college education at Ashland Community and Technical College and pursue the right programs, you can earn a four-year-degree and even a master’s degree without leaving Ashland. That makes MSU the closest thing to a local university that Ashland has.