Producing More Degrees
The last 15 years have been a period of tremendous growth at WKU, and that is especially evident in the student population. During this period, WKU has been the fastest growing public university in Kentucky, with total enrollment climbing 44 percent from 14,543 in Fall 1997 to 21,048 in Fall 2011. The number of students applying to WKU has nearly doubled from 10,000 to almost 20,000, an indication that WKU has become a university of choice for an ever-increasing number of students.
And the numbers are up across the board as WKU expands offerings to meet the ever-changing needs of students. This includes more classes and degree programs at regional campuses; more distance learning classes; more opportunities for students to earn college credit while still in high school; expanded partnerships with the Kentucky Community and Technical College System; and increased focus on minority student recruitment.
WKU’s vision to become A Leading American University with International Reach has meant an increased emphasis on international student recruitment as well. As a result, international student enrollment has jumped from 84 students in 1997 to 683 in 2011. International students at WKU represent nearly 50 countries with India and China leading the way.
Dual credit and distance learning are two examples of alternate methods of delivering course materials that were not prevalent or in existence in 1997. (The first online course was offered in 1999.) In fall 2011, there were 1,948 dual credit enrollments and 10,395 enrollments through distance learning. Nearly 6,000 students took at least one online course.
WKU has the second largest African American enrollment at any university in Kentucky, having increased from 928 in 1997 to 2,179 in 2011.
Retention and Graduation
Retaining students and keeping them on target for graduation has also been a priority at WKU. While WKU has had a modest improvement in retention to 73.2 percent in 2011, the percentage of students graduating within six years has jumped from 39.6 to 49.7.
WKU is helping fulfill the state goal of increasing the number of degree holders in Kentucky. Through increased enrollment, retention, joint programs with KCTCS, and efforts to keep students on track to graduate, the number of degrees awarded from WKU has climbed from 2,466 in 1997 to 3,885 in 2011. In addition, WKU developed WKU Finish, a program to help alumni with 90 or more credit hours return and complete their degrees.
"We now have six commencement ceremonies per year- that's directly a result of the increase in enrollment and the resulting number of graduates, but also an increase in participation because our ceremonies are an enjoyable, meaningful experience for students and their families. The red towel originated as a symbol of athletic spirit, but it has come to mean much more than that. At the conclusion of the ceremony, all our graduates are asked one last time to stand and wave the red towel." - Fredia Eggleton, WKU Registrar