Enrollment surge tops state colleges

LINDA CONNER LAMBECK lclambeck@ctpost.com
Connecticut Post Online

Enrollment at most colleges and universities in the state this fall ebbed and flowed only modestly.

But at the University of Bridgeport, the flow was more like tsunami.

UB boasted an enrollment jump of 18.3 percent over last fall, according to figures released by the state Department of Higher Education.

There are 4,752 students at UB this fall, according to figures the university supplied to the state. That includes included 2,749 graduate students, 212 professional degree candidates and 1,791 undergraduates.

UB officials say growth in its graduate business and engineering programs fueled most of the increase. Graduate enrollment is up 29 percent over last year.

Undergraduate enrollment at UB also is up 5.7 percent, officials said.

The school has not seen enrolment numbers at this level since 1990, the year before it went broke and almost closed. In the past five years, UB reported that enrollment has grown nearly 49 percent.

Statewide, college enrollment reached a new high.

Head counts this fall at the state's colleges and universities rose to a historic 178,855, up 1.3 percent, or 2,295 students, from a year ago.

Concern, however, is growing about how long the upswing will last. Current highs are attributed largely to the state's baby "boomlet." The number of state high school graduates, however, is expected to peak in 2008 and then drop through 2016.

Overall enrollment at state schools this year is up 1.6 percent.

The University of Connecticut recorded a slight jump of 0.7 percent. The Connecticut State University system, including Southern Connecticut in New Haven, edged downward, with erosion of 3.2 percent to an enrollment of 11,930 students.

Community colleges across the state grew by 1,945 students, or 4.2 percent. Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport gained 44 students, or 1 percent, charting a total enrollment of 4,475 students.

Anita Gliniecki, the new HCC president, said the increase, which offset a 1 percent decline in 2006, positions the college to do well next year when its expanded campus will have 30 additional classrooms.

"Right now, students, many of them trying to manage work, family and multiple other responsibilities, want classes at 6 p.m. At 6 p.m., I'm full and can't add another class," she said.

Housatonic's largest increase is among full-time students who have just graduated from high school. To Gliniecki, that says HCC's outreach efforts are working.

At private colleges, the statewide enrollment increase was just shy of 1 percent.

Sacred Heart University in Fairfield showed a 45-student gain to 5,801, but Fairfield University lost 67 students and is at 5,024.

St. Vincent's College in Bridgeport, a small two-year college in Bridgeport, lost 51 students and is at 424 students.

At UB, more effort into student services and a fully staffed admissions team, is getting the credit for the increase.

Barbara Maryak, associate vice president for UB admissions, said there the school is making a more concentrated recruitment effort at high schools in Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts and New York, particularly Long Island.

For a time, UB's concentration was on attracting students from overseas.

After more than a decade of debt, UB recently grew financially healthy enough to get a state bond of $21.2 million for renovation and expansion of several facilities at its South End campus, including the Fones School of Dental Hygiene clinic and Mandeville Hall.