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Enrollment growth poses challenges
6 October 2005

BISMARCK (UTN) - Enrollment at United Tribes Technical College set another record this fall, continuing a three-year pattern of increases and posing more challenges for managing the college's planned growth and expansion.

      According to an October 3 Enrollment Services report, enrollment was 905 for the 2005-06 academic year that began with summer semester. It's the largest enrollment figure at this point in the school year that the college has experienced in over 36 years of operation.

Students in line
One result of a growing enrollment is a longer line at lunchtime. On September 30 the waiting line at noon outside the UTTC cafeteria was 15 to 20 minutes.

      "Obviously I'm pleased that so many students are choosing to come here," said David M. Gipp, college president. "We're tracking pretty close to the goals we've set and that's a good thing."

      The new record is almost eight percent higher than one year ago when 840 students attended through the end of fall 2004. The figure includes students on the campus in Bismarck and at off campus locations, including those studying online.

      UTTC tracks annual enrollment as the number of students who attend over the three terms of an academic year: summer, fall and spring. Those who withdraw are subtracted.

      "We do expect some to withdraw," said Kathy Johnson, director of Enrollment Services. "It won't be a large number but it will happen. It has to do with funding and housing."

      As registered students settle into the fall term, some have encountered shortfalls in funding.

      "When students withdraw they're forced to put their futures on hold," said Gipp. "Lack of funding is an issue of national proportion and one of our most fundamental challenges. We know from studies that students who are well funded do well in the classroom. When they have to worry about resources, it means added pressure on them and their families."

      Housing is one of those added pressures.

      "Frustration builds up when you're staying in a hotel and trying to go to school," said Cheryl Wilkie, UTTC housing coordinator. "Students come in here trusting that we'll find a place for them. We've had a real crunch this time."

      UTTC's commitment to provide student housing is one of its most challenging operations as the college advances on a five-year plan to expand its campus and double enrollment from what it is now.

      According Wilkie, 191 students and their families were involved in the Off-Campus Student Housing Program since early August, about twice the number as last year. Wilkie and assistant Collette Charette manage to place students in local apartments and with the Burleigh and Morton County Housing Programs, or temporarily in hotels until more permanent lodging becomes available.

      "We work really hard to get them into a comfortable situation," said Wilkie. "But a few choose to pull the plug and withdraw before we can get them through. Right now we only have two families left in a hotel."

      Because the UTTC philosophy is to surround its students with support services, growth in enrollment has a ripple effect on other campus services. The number of youngsters attending kindergarten through grade 8 at Theodore Jamerson Elementary School is 170, near its maximum.

      "We're still very spread out," said Sam Azure, Dean of Childhood Education. "The addition of the new building last year helped but we're at a point where we have to restrict enrollment in certain grades."

      The two campus childhood centers that serve Pre-Schoolers and infant-toddlers are at capacity. No new space has been added to those facilities in four years.

      "For youngsters who come in from schools on reservations it's a challenge to make the adjustment," said Azure. "Leaving their family support structure at home, making new friends, maybe living in a hotel for a few weeks in a city larger than they're used to - those are very big things for kids."

      According to the UTTC Enrollment Report, the greatest numbers of college students were enrolled in UTTC's Nursing Program, followed by those in Criminal Justice, Small Business Management, and Business Office Administration. The college added a new dormitory in 2003; a wellness center is currently under construction. Classroom space is high on the priority list.

      "Right now in the classrooms we're managing reasonably well by careful scheduling, including evening classes," said Gipp. "But we're not far from our maximum capacities."


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