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Number of first-time freshmen up at ENMU-R; College president credits GEAR UP for increase of new students

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First-time students have increased by 30 percent this year, Dr. John Madden, president of Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell, told board members Wednesday, and officials say total enrollment also is likely to be up by the end of the semester. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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The number of full-time, first-year freshmen enrolled at Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell is up 30 percent, giving President John Madden a reason to express enthusiasm.

The full enrollment picture for fall 2017 is still not known, but, at this time, total student enrollment is down by about 250, from 2,918 in fall 2016 to 2,668 as of Wednesday.
Total enrollment is expected to increase, ENMU-R officials say, because some programs, such as Emergency Medical Services training, do not run on semester calendars and have not yet started. Student credit hours likely will exceed last year’s, officials added.
Madden indicated that freshmen numbers are a reason to be optimistic. First-time freshmen total 628 so far this year, up from 484 in fall 2016.
“This is phenomenal,” Dr. Madden said. “This is first-time, full-time freshmen, and that is our bread-and-butter, if you will, and that is attributable to basically one program called GEAR UP.”

ENMU-R has a U.S. Department of Education grant to run a Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs in Chaves County. The college places counselors in middle schools and high schools to prepare students academically and financially for college. The freshmen enrolling in ENMU-R this fall are students that the university began working with when they were in the seventh grade, Madden said.
Madden, talking to ENMU-R Community College Board members at a Wednesday meeting, said that fall 2018 freshmen numbers also should be strong, because that is the second GEAR UP cohort in this particular grant funding cycle.
The GEAR UP program, which also provides scholarships for high school graduates once they enroll in accredited degree programs, does not promote any one college or university to students. It’s single focus, Madden said, is to raise college attendance by Chaves County high school students. The first funding cycle, the program increased college enrollment from about one-third of Chaves County high school graduates to 75 percent. So far in this second funding cycle, college enrollment is at about 76 percent.
ENMU-R leaders are pleased that so many of the 600 or so in the 2017 entering freshmen GEAR UP group chose the Roswell university.
“Classes are full,” said Madden. “This is the first time in a long time that we have actually closed classes. … We haven’t done that in about three years.”
New Mexico State University announced Sept. 1 that freshmen enrollment has increased 11.3 percent from 2016, the largest increase in 17 years. Actual freshmen head counts were not provided. But NMSU has had overall declines in enrollment from 2012 to 2016, as have five of the largest universities in the state. The Eastern New Mexico University system, which includes online programs and campuses in Portales and Ruidoso, is one that has experienced enrollment growth, a 47 percent increase since 2006, with a total headcount in fall 2016 of 6,014.
ENMU-R also saw new students enroll in the Early College High School, which ENMU-R runs in conjunction with the Roswell Independent School District. About 75 freshmen entered that school this fall, bringing total enrollment to about 200, Madden said.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.