Preliminary numbers reflect record enrollment

A decade-long trend of increasing enrollment is set to continue in 2009, according to preliminary reports. Overall enrollment is up from 2008, and once the official numbers come in, Tech’s enrollment is expected to be at an all-time high, according to Robert Hodum, executive director of enrollment management.

“Preliminary numbers show our head count at 10,857,” Hodum said. “That’s in comparison to last year’s 10,793. It’s the highest total head count the University has ever had.”

That total is a 17 percent increase from 2005, a trend that can be attributed to an increased effort to retain full-time students.

Full-Time Equivalent, FTE, determines how much funding the university gets from the state itself.

“We made some shifts in our resources,” Hodum said, “and we really focus on recruiting and retaining full-time students. And the undergraduate FTE that we get funded on increased, it looks like over 500.”

Hodum explained the FTE guidelines for determining the full-term number.

“If you had 100 students out there taking a one-hour class, well, the state is not going to say, ‘Let us give you money for 100 full-time students.'”

The FTE calculation is actually a simple process. For example, if the average student took 15 hours, then that number is divided into the total number of hours taken by all students to determine the FTE figure.

“It would mean that the average student is taking 15 hours,” Hodum said, “and for every 15 hours for undergraduate students, that’s one FTE.”

For the public relations side, the head count is important. But it is the FTE that determines funding, and that’s the number that the Admissions Office is more concerned with. Both figures have increased every year since 2000, with the exception of 2003, when Full-Time Enrollment experienced a minimal decrease.

Does the economy have something to do with the increasing enrollment? Hodum thinks it’s a possibility, and his analysis suggests a trickle-down effect from the private institutions to the public universities, all the way to the community college level.

“Overall, higher education usually gets a little boost from a down economy,” Hodum said. “Now, there are some exceptions. Private liberal arts schools really suffer in a tough economy. A family has a hard time justifying paying $30,000-$40,000 for a private education during tough times.

“Many times the public universities will tend to get students who would have gone to a private school during a tough economy. And the community colleges tend to get students who might have started out at the university. So, if you look at the Tennessee Board of Regents numbers, the community colleges are just busting. All 19 institutions at the Tennessee Board of Regents grew this year. All of them.”

The preliminary findings also suggest the possibility of a strong incoming freshman class. The new class, which consists of 1,893 students, is the largest ever to join Tech. It breaks the previous record by more than 200 students and is a 13 percent increase.

“The high school GPA for our new freshman class is around 3.4,” Hodum pointed out. “That’s higher than it’s ever been. And the average ACT is around 24, which is higher than it’s ever been. Of course, these are preliminary findings, so when the official numbers come in, it’s hard to tell because we’re talking hundreds of points here.”

The enrollment information has to be sent to the TBR for finalizing before the official numbers are released, and Hodum believes that could happen around the end of the month.

The Admissions Office has also been busy processing applications for incoming freshman, even those who will be enrolling Fall 2010.

“We processed over 5,000 new freshman applications this year,” Hodum said. “That was an increase of 1,000 applications. And we also had a 14 percent increase in transfer applications this fall.