you know, the enrollment this fall was phenomenal. For the first time
in many years, we
exceeded the 700 mark in enrollment with our official number of 703.
That is a 7.5% increase from last falls 654 total and 33% higher
than our enrollment of 530 in 1998. What is most impressive to me is
our increase in new students. Last fall we had 250 new students; this
fall we have 281, an increase of 12%. In 1998, 202 new students attended
Ozarks, so this years number of 281 represents a 39% increase.
Although that kind of growth may sound rapid and unexpected,
it really is not. We have been planning for it and our ultimate
goal of 750 students for some time. During the past three years
we added 12 faculty members to keep our student to faculty ratio at
15:1 and our average class size at 16. We created additional computer
labs, academic and smart classrooms, and office space throughout
the campus with a number of renovations and construction of Walker Hall.
We have dramatically increased and enhanced Student Life activities
and organizations, expanded intramural programming and events, and improved
the quality of our food service and the appearance of the cafeteria,
snack bar, and bookstore.
In regard to on-campus living, we completely renovated
the three residence halls and added parking, and we built three new
apartment-style residence halls. This fall we are more cramped in our
residence halls than I prefer, but we have already developed plans for
a fourth apartment-style building. I need to find a donor for that project,
which is always a challenge, but I am working on that daily. I also
know that we need to expand our cafeteria to accommodate students more
comfortably during meals. That expansion remains a top priority.
I am often asked why we want to have a bigger enrollment,
and that is a legitimate question I can address directly. Thirty-one
campuses nationwide have closed their doors since 1997, campuses that
are very similar in size and mission to Ozarks. The prediction is that
25 more campuses will close in the next two years. These closings are
occurring because of decreasing student enrollments. Thatmakes our enrollment
success all the more important and all the more critical for our continued
viability as a campus. However, rest assured, a total of 750 students
is our limit, and I am committed to keeping us at that number.
Although this enrollment success story is shared by many, we must never
forget the reason for that success and for our existence as a campus
STUDENTS. And, once again, I thank our students for believing
in Ozarks and the quality of education we provide. Students are the
reason all of us are here, and we are working to make your educational
experience the best one possible.
Dr. Rick Niece