Enrollment has declined across the University of Alaska system for the last few years.
But at the Southeast campus, enrollment is actually up for first-year students. There are also more students enrolled in career and technical programs.
That may have something to do with a renewed push to recruit new students and a systemwide tuition discount for certain courses.
On a Wednesday evening in the Glacier Room at the University of Alaska Southeast, UAS Outreach Coordinator Su Reyes hosted an “off to college” event for prospective students. Turnout wasn’t great, but Reyes said she didn’t mind.
“We had roughly three or four. Some with parents, some by themselves and maybe just a parent come in,” Reyes said.
Reyes is new to her position. She visits the local high schools every week, and she and her colleagues also attend college conferences around Alaska and the Northwest.
“That’s really been an initiative for us, just to do a little bit more recruiting events and getting with our community just to let them know that UAS is here and we’re here to help,” she said.
Overall, enrollment at UAS is down more than 3 percent from last year, and its budget has declined 19 percent since 2014.
That’s not bad considering it’s the smallest campus in the UA system. At Anchorage and Fairbanks, enrollment has declined even more.
UAS Chancellor Rick Caulfield presented more numbers for this school year at a Juneau Chamber of Commerce luncheon last week.
“Our first-time students, including our freshmen students but also others coming back for the very first time, are up by 10 percent,” Caulfield said.
One of the things Caulfield highlighted was the fact that enrollment in career and technical programs went up 19 percent for UAS. That’s classes like nurse aide training, heavy machinery and diesel mechanics for mining and marine transportation.
Caulfield said the increase is thanks in part to stepped up recruitment and to a 25 percent tuition decrease for some classes that the UA Board of Regents approved last year. The drop in tuition took effect this fall.
“Of course we’re going to look closely to make sure it’s accomplishing what we want it to do, which was to encourage more young people to look at career and technical education career opportunities here in Southeast Alaska,” Caulfield said.
The discount reduces tuition for a $200 per credit class to $150 per credit. It applies to about 50 programs and more than 300 classes across UA campuses. Overall, the number of people enrolled in these courses at UAS is still small — less than 70 students.
Caulfield hopes to see that number grow over time, especially as they work to increase the pipeline between high school and the campus.
“So that even high school students can earn college credits and have the benefit of that 25 percent tuition reduction while they’re still in high school and they’re already on a pathway into a college program before they graduate high school,” Caulfield said.
He says they’re also looking outside Alaska to students enrolled in community colleges in the Pacific Northwest who may want the chance to study fisheries and marine biology in an environment that offers hands-on research experiences.
“We’re working hard on the outreach. We’re working hard to help them understand what’s available at UAS and why it’s special, and it’s paying off,” he said.
Caulfield said they have a budget request this year to hire an additional recruiter for next year.