Tuesday, August 21, 2001

Growth brings changes to NKU

Record enrollment ends open admissions

By Ben L. Kaufman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Kelly Whitlock of Richmond, Va., talks to Marc Mobley of Louisville while standing in line to buy books.
(Gray Landers photo)
| ZOOM |
        HIGHLAND HEIGHTS — Northern Kentucky University opened Monday with an attitude. It is growing, its standards are rising and its staff, students and faculty intend to be more assertive players in regional public affairs.

        Meanwhile, there was sufficient parking on the predominantly commuter campus, senior staff to help newcomers find their way and shorter lines than last year in the redesigned bookstore.

        And, consistent with national trends, most students are women.

        “I like the odds,” said freshman George Betz, 19, of Union, Ky. “It gives me a better chance.”

        Enrollment as of Friday was 12,897, up 809 from last year's record, and includes the largest freshman class — 4,195 — since NKU became a four-year college in 1968.

        “This is a great problem to have,” said shirt-sleeved President James Votruba as he and senior aides walked the campus and talked to students. “Northern Kentucky and the commonwealth (need) us to grow.”

        Growth, however, is forcing changes on NKU:

        • For the first time, NKU closed new student enrollment early, on Aug. 1, instead of on the last day of the first week of class.

        • Because of the early enrollment deadline — and a shortage of classrooms and instructors — 200 applicants were turned away with a request to come back for spring semester.

        • New residence halls must open by 2003 because this year, for the first time, NKU is over stuffing dorms with at least 87 additional beds.

        • No date is set, but NKU will abandon open admissions and accept only students whose high school preparation demonstrates college readiness.

  • Today: Thomas More College, Miami University.
  • Monday: College of Mount St. Joseph, Art Academy of Cincinnati.
  • Aug. 28: Xavier University.
  • Sept. 20: University of Cincinnati.
        For most students Monday, however, those were distant concerns.

        Brandi Frisby, 19, of Verona, Ky., is a sophomore communications major and one of four women sharing a two-bedroom suite.

        She was, however, unaware of the imbalance of the sexes there, where 59.3 percent of the students are women (compared with just under 57 percent nationally).

        “I thought it would be about even,” she said.

        Jessica Couch, 22, a senior majoring in elementary education from Dayton, Ky., continues to find most of her social life off-campus.

        She said it is changing.

        Casual dating — one man, one woman going out without a long-term relationship — is rare, she said.

        “I've been on very few "dates,'” she said.

        Fear of date rape, sexually transmitted diseases and attendant risks are fueling the shift in attitude, Miss Couch said.

        “It's more dangerous these days. Women are learning to be more careful,” she said.

        “It's just safer to meet as a group of friends and to meet somebody that way.”

        David Crawley, 19, a business-major sophomore from Louisville living on campus, agreed.

        “It is a group thing. You get four or five of your buddies and four or five girls.”

        Together, it's a meal out, a movie, and if there is pairing off, it comes later. Meanwhile, he said, unequal numbers make living on campus “great for me.”

        He is among 545 black students attending the university — up 97 from last spring.

        NKU's overall enrollment is up 809 students, or 6.7 percent. Freshman registration is up 246, or 6.2 percent.

        By contrast, the U.S. Department of Education reports a 2 percent increase this fall nationally in enrollment in post-secondary education.

        Last week, Dr. Votruba told faculty and staff he was pleased that “the greatest portion of this increase is in the retention of continuing students and readmission of students who had stopped out.”

        “Stop-outs” are students who quit to replenish their finances, then return to pursue their degrees.

        Dr. Votruba said there have been substantial increases in international and African-American students and in Governor's Scholars.

        “We are no longer going to be open admissions for any student who wishes to attend,” Dr. Votruba said.

        “Students will need to plan early and take appropriate high school courses to prepare themselves for university study. We will admit those students whom we believe are prepared to succeed.”

        A financial burden, he said, is the low level of state support compared with other Kentucky regional campuses.

        For every $1 of tuition and fees, Kentucky adds 97 cents in support, Dr. Votruba said.

        Other public universities get $1.51 to $2.74, he said, blaming NKU's relatively short history and lack of political clout in Frankfort for the low subsidy.

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