UW-Rock County enjoys record number of students for fall semester
JANESVILLE Lexi Hegle came for the low cost. She's loving UW-Rock County for the attention she gets from professors.
Hegle of Janesville is one of the many freshmen getting their first taste of college this fall at UW-Rock.
The college released its fall enrollment numbers Tuesday, showing another record year, with the number of full- and part-time students exceeding 1,300 for the first time.
Hegle said her parents can't help much with college costs, so the price of a higher education was a top concern.
A UW-Rock Foundation scholarship that covers nearly half her tuition sealed the deal, Hegle said.
Now that she's in school, Hegle is sold on the education she's getting.
Music classes are almost like private lessons because classes are so small, she said.
"Even in my biggest class, I feel I can go directly to the professor," Hegle said. "I had a question in chemistry, and (the professor) was right there at the table, working with me and another girl. At a bigger school, they wouldn't have time to spend with a student just on the fly like that."
Hegle, who plans to become a nurse, said she can save money by living at home and use her savings when she transfers to a four-year school. UW-Rock offers its associate-degree graduates a guaranteed transfer to any UW school.
Tuition and living expenses are a big deal for a lot of students these days, as public universities continue to crank up costs.
UW-Rock County, like the 13 other two-year colleges in the UW System, have tuition significantly lower than places like nearby UW-Whitewater.
Tuition and fees for a full-time student who is a Wisconsin resident at UW-Rock is $2,549 per semester. It's $3,598 at UW-Whitewater. Add housing and a meal plan at UW-W, and the cost soars well over $6,000 a semester, according to an online cost calculator.
UW-Rock's full-time-equivalent enrollment is down slightly from last year, which means more students are attending part-time. UW-Rock Dean Carmen Wilson said she's not sure why.
"The economy could be playing a role in that people can't afford to be full-time, or they need to work more, so they can't manage a full-time course load," Wilson said.
UW-Rock has attracted older students for many years, and the enrollment of students above the age of 22 continues to be strong, accounting for more than a third of all students.
Sindi Kunkle of Beloit is one of those students. She was a tax preparer for 17 years before deciding two years ago to get an accounting degree.
The convenience of the nearby campus, the cost and the ease of transfer to other UW schools were big factors in her decision, Kunkle said.
"I'm very happy with the service I'm getting there. I think UW-Rock is a big asset to our community," Kunkle said. "Everyone has made me feel very welcome, even the younger students."
Wilson said the top reason for students choosing UW-Rock is word of mouth, and she said that speaks well of the faculty and staff.
"And I'm glad that while we're still growing, we're not growing by leaps and bounds" because of the strain that could put on staff and facilities, Wilson said.
Speaking of facilities, Wilson hopes to present a long-range plan next month to the county board. The plan includes campus expansion.
The county board is responsible for UW-Rock's buildings and grounds. It agreed to fund the $11 million expansion that was completed in 2010.
Wilson said she has no indication that enrollments will decrease, and UW-Rock expects to start recruiting from a wider area.
Wisconsin has new agreements with eight other upper-Midwest states that allow out-of-state students to attend here at 150 percent of the in-state tuition instead of the current 200 percent.
Wilson said she thinks students could be attracted from just south of the Wisconsin border, from places such as South Beloit.
BTC fall enrollment drops
Blackhawk Technical College released preliminary fall enrollment numbers Wednesday, showing a decrease from fall 2011.
The numbers are preliminary because students are still able to drop courses, according to a memo to the BTC Board.
Blackhawk's head count dropped by 10.7 percent, from 4,179 full- and part-time students in fall 2011 to 3,730 this year.
The full-time-equivalent enrollment did not decline as steeply. The college reports 1,030 FTEs this fall, a 6.7 percent drop from last fall's 1,104.