Utah's nine colleges and universities saw a 7.7 percent enrollment jump fall quarter, with 3,671 more students showing up on campuses than had been expected.
The fall-quarter head count is 87,001, compared with 80,809 last year. That is 6,192 new students or a 7.7 percent increase. The new total is 3,671 more than the projected 83,330.The 1990 FTE (full-time equivalent) enrollment is up by 5.8 percent. It is 63,534, compared with 60,004 last year and 1,674 more than projected.
Higher-education officials, who knew the bubble of students in public education was beginning to move to higher education, are clearly surprised by the size of the increases in both head count enrollment and FTE students. They aren't sure exactly why their projections were so far off.
It's the second year that enrollment projections have fallen far short of the actual number of college students. Last fall, 2,467 more students enrolled than projected.
"We've been using (an enrollment projection) model that's been very reliable for several years. One thing for certain is in the next couple of weeks, we're going back to all of the institutions toanalyze the composition (of the student body) and to try and make some judgments," said Commissioner of Higher Education Wm. Rolfe Kerr.
But, the commissioner said, some preliminary indications tie the enrollment increase to several factors, including a greater number of transfer students at the University of Utah and Utah State University; a higher percentage of high school students going on to college; and more older students returning.
"Students want something in addition to or beyond high school, or they want an upgrading of the training that they've already had. There is no question that is what is occurring at Salt Lake Community College," he said.
SLCC received the largest increase - 2,168 more students than last fall and 1,581 above the projection. Its number of FTE students jumped to 7,198 or 698 above the projection.
Judd Morgan, SLCC student services vice president, said the large increase has heavily affected the classrooms and added to parking congestion. One foreign language class meets in an open area of the Construction Trades Building.
But the fast-growing SLCC, which has seen large increases for several years, is not the biggest surprise to higher education officials. Kerr listed that as the increases at the U., USU and CEU.
The enrollment rise at the two universities may be linked to the enrollment cap at Brigham Young University. "There is no question that is having an impact. We just to have figure out how much of one," Kerr said.
USU's increase of 632 students - or 1,211 if students at its extension programs and centers are included - is its largest enrollment increase in one year since World War II veterans flooded campus 45 years ago.
"Such a large increase was not anticipated nor funded in the last state budget. Providing classes, facilities and equipment for so many is a substantial financial problem for us," said USU President Stanford Cazier.
The U.'s institutional growth of 865 more students is expected to compound its internal-access problem. High demand and inadequate funding have restricted access to some programs, including engineering, communications and business.
At tiny CEU, Kerr said, a lot of its growth of 540 new students appears to be at the college's San Juan Center, Blanding, where 60 percent of the students are Native Americans.
The one major downturn in the numbers projections was at Utah Valley Community College, where the enrollment was 214 students below the projection.
But the commissioner believes that it's a one-time drop tied to the college's switch this fall to the semester system. "It takes a while to make the transition to the semester," Kerr said.
The new enrollment numbers mean that the State Board of Regents, which has adopted enrollment growth as its No. 1 budget priority, will probably have to juggle the budget even more when it meets this Friday in Price.
Last month, based on the old enrollment projections, the regents were told to plan for an additional 4,188 FTE students for next year, with $10.9 million in additional state money to finance enrollment growth.
But the commissioner will recommend raising the new student funding, based on the new enrollment levels, to 6,526 new FTE students in the 1991-92 budget. That change alone would raise the higher-education budget request by $6.07 million in state money, increasing the total higher-education request to $68.6 million.
Utah's fall-quarter college boom
Head count FTE* count projection**
U. of U. 25,425 19,912 865
USU 15,572 11,513 632
WSC 14,113 10,053 303
SUSC 3,474 3,157 -86
Snow 1,872 1,798 2
Dixie 2,528 2,158 48
CEU 2,960 1,800 540
UVCC 7,886 5,225 -214
SLCC 13,171 7,918 1,581
Total 87,001 63,534 3,671