CMU leads in student growth

Kelson Kulupaa of Hawaii, second from left, a sophomore at Colorado Mesa University, greets a friend in passing Friday as he joins a crowd of students on his way to class on the Grand Junction campus. Enrollment this fall is listed at 7,290 full-time students, and university President Tim Foster foresees a population of 10,000 within two or three years.

Colorado Mesa University led the state for a third consecutive year in 2011-12 for year-over-year student growth at Colorado colleges and universities.

The Colorado Department of Higher Education released data last week that counted the equivalent of 7,290 full-time students at Colorado Mesa’s Grand Junction and Montrose campuses and Western Colorado Community College last school year, up from the equivalent of 6,719 full-time students in 2010-11.

Total enrollment is higher because of part-time students. The department counted 8,967 total students last fall in the Colorado Mesa system.

Colorado Mesa hit a high for enrollment growth in 2009-10, when the school grew its full-time equivalent count by 16.5 percent. This year’s growth of 8.5 percent is smaller but still outpaces the 11 other four-year schools in Colorado.

Five percent growth for the next few years is the target for Colorado Mesa President Tim Foster, who said he could see a student population of 10,000 fitting into the CMU system within two or three years. He said it is important for the Grand Junction campus to grow with the student population, which is why he hopes the city of Grand Junction and Mesa County will come through with a total of $10 million for a new academic classroom building on campus.

“They’re getting down to final actions on their budgets so we hope we’ll be in there,” Foster said. “I think that county and city support is going to speak volumes to legislators” who Foster plans to ask for state capital development money to complete the $17 million classroom project.

One place the university is not growing is in its graduate departments. The school had the equivalent of 33 full-time students enrolled in its master’s degree programs in education, business and nursing last year, the lowest tally for CMU since 2005-06. The eight other Colorado universities with graduate programs have between 158 and 6,088 graduate students each.

More online programming and potentially a few new graduate programs may help boost graduate enrollment at Colorado Mesa, Foster said.

“We’re looking at a couple departments” for master’s possibilities, he said, including exercise science, criminal justice and science.

Colorado Mesa outpaced all other state schools in year-over-year growth of full-time equivalent in-state students at 7.8 percent. The university placed third in the state for growth of out-of-state students even though that growth was higher at 13.3 percent. CMU was a few percentage points behind Colorado School of Mines in out-of-state growth and far behind the 29.9 percent non-resident growth Adams State University picked up in 2011-12, when the Alamosa school packed on 112 full-time equivalent students from outside Colorado.

Foster said adding students from outside Colorado, who pay more for tuition than in-state students, continues to be a priority for the school. Thirteen percent of full-time equivalent students at CMU were from outside Colorado in 2011-12, up from 12.4 percent in 2010-11.

“We’d like to see that grow as long as it never displaces an in-state student. It helps subsidize our in-state students,” he said.


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