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ENMU poised to reach enrollment milestone

Eastern New Mexico University is heading toward topping 5,000 in enrollment for the first time, and is growing in several segments of its student population as well, university officials have said.

The numbers won’t be finalized until the completion of the university’s fall census Sept. 3, but estimates and preliminary numbers indicate the growth.

ENMU President Steven Gamble predicted the enrollment of 5,000-plus, up 6.7 percent or more compared to 4,685 students last year.

“Five thousand’s kind of a milestone,” he said.

Fall enrollment is up across the state with the University of New Mexico expecting record enrollment and New Mexico State University reporting a 5.8 percent rise in enrollment across its campuses.

Gamble attributed ENMU’s increase to hard work on recruiting, a weak economy motivating people to go to school, and the university’s good reputation.

“Word of mouth advertising is still the best,” he said.

Despite the overall increase, Gamble said the number of freshmen and foreign students is about the same as last year.

As of Monday afternoon, Gamble said, the residence halls were filled to 100 percent capacity, and Vice President for University Relations Ronnie Birdsong said attendance at Dawg Days new student orientation is up.

Executive Director of Planning and Analysis Patrice Caldwell said Hispanic enrollment was up overall, with the increase pronounced in the freshman class. That class is approaching 40 percent of students being Hispanic, up from 34 percent last year, she said.

Caldwell said nearby public schools have a rising proportion of Hispanic students, so ENMU should follow along that trend.

“We want to be their first choice,” she said. “We want to be sure the community has access to higher education. It’s an avenue to economic development.”

Also, Birdsong said a lot of transfer students were coming to ENMU this fall. She said programs designed for them helped attract that population.

People enrolling with military tuition waivers have increased 20 percent over this time last year as well, Caldwell said. She said the rise comes from the expansion at Cannon Air Force Base and people affiliated with the base coming to college.

On retention, Birdsong said as of Friday, the number of freshmen continuing on as sophomores had risen by about half a percent, which she said was good.

“It takes all of it to build the numbers,” she continued.

Finally, Gamble expects the ACT score for incoming ENMU freshmen to rise this year, but he said officials wouldn’t know for sure until they verified who was attending.

Last fall, a freshman at ENMU scored an average of 20.11 on the ACT, higher than the state average of 20.01.