The Times West Virginian

September 22, 2013

Pierpont, FSU numbers down slightly

Fairmont State enrollment for first-time freshman, transfer students up

By Kaylyn Christopher
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — As students at Pierpont Community & Technical College and Fairmont State University are settling into their fall semester classes, enrollment numbers are becoming more concrete.

Ron Weist, Pierpont’s director of enrollment research and planning, said enrollment numbers for the institution will not be finalized until the official census date which is Oct. 15, but did say numbers are typically stable by this point in the semester.

“Generally, what happens is that our enrollment numbers continue to climb through the first week of classes,” Weist said. “Colleges then see a natural attrition as things like tuition deadlines or outside factors impact student attendance.”

According to Weist, at this point, the fall headcount is 2,500 degree-seeking students with a full-time equivalent of more than 1,850 students.

Those numbers are a slight decrease from 2012 fall headcount of 2,925.

Although enrollment numbers have seen some decline, new programs are being implemented by the institution.

Weist said one of the programs that is gaining steam is the Petroleum Technology Degree Program. Pierpont admitted the program’s first class of students this fall.

“The program will train technicians that are going to work in all areas of the oil and gas industry from drilling to delivery,” Weist said. “These are high-paying jobs that are in demand.”

Weist added that Pierpont’s enrollment continues to be strong in transfer and returning students.

“This is a fact that speaks volumes about the quality of our faculty and the experience they bring to the classroom and laboratory,” he said.

Pierpont’s brand new facility at the MTEC campus in Morgantown as well as the classes and programs offered at Veteran’s Square in downtown Fairmont are also drawing in students.

Like Pierpont, Fairmont State has also seen a decrease in enrollment numbers.

According to Kaye Widney, vice president for Student Services at FSU, this fall’s enrollment numbers are down approximately 3.8 percent from last year.

As of the beginning of last week, Widney said there were 3,955 undergraduate students and 274 graduate students enrolled in the university.

“Overall, our enrollment has dropped a little bit, primarily with our returning students,” Widney said.

Widney said faculty and staff at Fairmont State are making an effort to analyze student goals and outcomes to help with retention.

“We’re trying to get ideas for where our students are going once they leave here and trying to determine if students have actually met their educational goal at the time they leave,” Widney said.

According to Widney, some students enroll in the institution with the intent of eventually transferring to another institution or they enroll for the sake of earning professional development but not necessarily a degree.

“We’re trying to figure out what that reduced number of returning students can be attributed to,” Widney said.

While the number of returning students may be down, Widney said enrollment numbers for first-time freshman and transfer students have risen.

In addition, Widney said many of those students are coming in with a stronger academic profile.

“We had our largest number of Promise Scholarship recipients in our freshman class this year,” she said. “I think if we continue along that trend, our retention will improve. We have stronger students starting, and those stronger students tend to complete.”

In addition, Amy Pellegrin, director of marketing and branding for FSU, said FSU’s nursing, business and criminal justice programs continue to draw high levels of success and interest.

“Our Associate of Science Degree in Nursing students have one of the highest pass rates in the state,” Pellegrin said.

Recruiting efforts for the 2014-2015 academic year are also ready to begin.

“Our first campus visitation day event will be on Nov. 2,” Widney said. “That will be a good opportunity for high school juniors and seniors to begin to learn about our programs and our campus.” 

Pellegrin said Fairmont State’s recent move to the Mountain East Athletic Conference will provide new opportunities for the recruitment of students and the possibility of higher enrollment.

“Fairmont State has the opportunity to broaden its footprint into new areas,” Pellegrin said. “Our athletic teams are attracting students who are eager to excel in the classroom and on the field.” 

Email Kaylyn Christopher at kchristopher@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @KChristopherTWV.