OUR OPINION: Effort, planning grew UND's enrollment
Well, it took a little longer than Charles Kupchella would have liked. Make that a lot longer. But 10 years after the former president set an enrollment goal of 14,000, UND finally has reached it. Congratulations to Kupchella, who started the dri...
Well, it took a little longer than Charles Kupchella would have liked. Make that a lot longer.
But 10 years after the former president set an enrollment goal of 14,000, UND finally has reached it.
Congratulations to Kupchella, who started the drive toward the goal; to UND President Bob Kelley, whose administration now has met and surpassed it; and to all of the administrators who played a role.
Congratulations as well to Mayville State University, Valley City State University and North Dakota State University, which also showed significant enrollment gains.
Steady and controlled growth on a campus that has the capacity is a healthy thing. If you don't think so, ask anyone on a campus that is experiencing the opposite -- namely, enrollment declines.
UND was there as recently as 2008. The university "has the buildings and faculty to accommodate more students," a Herald editorial said at the time.
"But the numbers keep going down instead of up." As a result, budget and program cutbacks were looming, threatening to leave the university weaker and less dynamic than it had been before.
Reversing such trends never is a sure thing. It takes smart work by administrators, faculty and staff, all of whom must work together to make a campus inviting, exciting and inspiring at the same time.
Under Kelley's leadership, UND has succeeded -- and that is no small achievement.
Now, the university faces a happier dilemma: Should it or should it not continue to grow?
For the answer isn't automatically "it should." Capacity is the key: What's the capacity of the university's facilities? What would continued growth to the faculty/student ratio, the average number of students per class and other indicators? What's the housing situation like?
If UND is at or near capacity, then its leadership must make some decisions. Should we try to build more buildings and hire more staff in order to accommodate more students?
Doing so likely would require commitments from the Board of Higher Education and the Legislature, uncertain prospects at best. But if UND officials can show evidence of strong demand in the marketplace, they'd at least have a case.
Or, should UND now consolidate its gains and make itself the best 14,000-student university that it can be?
Carleton College's enrollment has sat at about 2,000 students for years; but the steady state hasn't hurt the Northfield, Minn., institution, which consistently ranks among the top liberal-arts colleges in the U.S.
Among other impacts, staying at or near 14,000 could let UND boost its "endowment per student" figure. That's always a good trend.
The bottom line is that a healthy UND is good for Grand Forks and great for the state of North Dakota. This year's enrollment growth shows that the university is succeeding in a key measure: namely, it has what many thousands of students want. Again, congratulations.
-- Tom Dennis for the Herald