The final count for Murray State enrollment soared past the estimated 11,000 for the fall 2014 semester.
Enrollment increased steadily from 10,022 students in 2008 to 11,207 this semester.
Fred Dietz, associate vice president for Enrollment Management, said increased enrollment can be attributed to a number of factors, but the cost of attending Murray State tops the list.
With the closure of Mid-Continent University in June, Murray State saw the largest transfer enrollment numbers from Mid-Continent recorded, leading to a larger transfer total.
Along with a larger transfer student population, Dietz said there were increases in graduate students and international students this year.
The Murray State Paducah Campus has seen a 12 percent increase, with approximately 140 additional students.
Murray State President Bob Davies said high school graduates of today know the value of higher education.
Students are dreaming of better opportunities for tomorrow, he said.
“Students are being drawn to higher education as a whole to better themselves and find opportunities that would not exist without the higher education credential,” Davies said. “When we admit students, they’re having that dream.”
Wanting to earn a degree encourages high school students to visit Murray State, and the bargain Murray State offers is what brings them back as enrolled students, Dietz said.
“Our students continue to realize the value of the (Murray State) degree in relation to cost,” Dietz said. “We have done a good job of awarding financial aid so that students can afford to attend.”
While affordability is important to students, high quality education and a campus that isn’t too big are also important, he said.
Davies agrees with students: the size is just right.
Physically, the campus can handle the number of students without a problem, Davies said, but culturally, he thinks smaller is better.
“We pride ourselves on small classes, we pride ourselves on direct faculty and staff connections with students, we pride ourselves on that student experience in having those small intimate ties,” Davies said. “If we continue to grow rapidly and rapidly, and exponentially, what does that do to the cultural capacity?”
Davies said protecting the campus environment students enjoy when visiting is of utmost importance.
He said protecting the Murray State reputation and tradition of serving students and being very student focused is imperative.
That tradition is what students are buying into when they enroll at Murray State, Davies said.
The University needs to put more focus on recruiting non-traditional students, though, he said. He added campus tours after 5 p.m. and offering Saturday classes would create a better environment for non-traditional students working weekdays.
Growth is essential to a university. Even so, the university should not grow for growth’s sake, but to reflect successes, Davies said.
“More students is not always better,” Davies said. “Bigger is not always better.”
Story by Amanda Grau, Assistant News Editor