Enrollment Numbers Show Growth in Freshman Class, Hispanic, International and Dual Enrollment

© Western New Mexico University

Western New Mexico University continues to grow, with fall 2023 freshman enrollment up 37% from the same time last year and overall growth up over 6% to nearly 3,600 students. While growth had been hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic prior to 2022, the rise in this year’s enrollment reflects a renewed interest in students pursuing higher education and the positive impact of the Opportunity Scholarship, which offers free tuition for New Mexican residents.

As one of the original Hispanic-Serving Institutions, WNMU traditionally has a large number of Hispanic students, but this year the number increased by 10.4%. This number does not reflect the substantial number of international students who identify as Hispanic.

The increase in the number of Hispanic students is great news for WNMU, indicated Professor of Finance Miguel Vicéns. “I always cherish having a diverse group of students in the classroom,” he said, “Students of Hispanic backgrounds bring assorted viewpoints to the classroom. It conveys a larger perspective of the world . . . For example, not all students who identify as Hispanics speak Spanish [and] not all international students from countries that speak Spanish have the same culture, history, traditions or even eat the same food.”

The number of international students has also grown dramatically, up 26.9% over last year. “Universities must have a global approach to be successful,” noted WNMU President Joseph Shepard. “Our international community brings other cultures to our students while these international students serve as ambassadors of the American way of life back to their home countries.”

The growth in these numbers indicates that WNMU is fulfilling its role as a diverse university and as an HSI. “In my eyes, all higher education institutions, are to provide quality education to the populations they serve,” said Vicéns, “We have become very familiar with the challenges of [New Mexico] and the population, [and] we serve the students with warmth and quality, because we can’t forget that our role is to be a catalyst for a better future for our communities.”

The dual enrollment program, which allows students to earn college credit while still enrolled in high school, has also seen substantial growth, up 13.8% since the same time last year.

Reflecting on the overall enrollment numbers, Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Betsy Miller said that there was no single reason that enrollment increased, but she indicated that the university’s faculty and staff on the whole contributed to the growth.

“I think our recruiting team did a very good job,” she said, “They go out and recruit through all of New Mexico, El Paso, Phoenix and the Tucson area.” Miller indicated that the university has targeted some of its recruitment efforts to other schools with which WNMU has articulation agreements, such as San Juan Community College.

Miller also sees the university’s location as an advantage in attracting students to WNMU. Not only is the university’s proximity to the Gila a benefit, but “the beauty of the campus attracts students as well,” she said.

A centrally important factor to enrollment, indicated Miller, is the quality of our academic programs and support services. “Our faculty care about our students and help them to succeed,” she said, “And Career Services helps them land jobs. It takes everybody here on campus to bring in new students.” Miller noted that WNMU also provides a robust internet infrastructure that allows students to excel in today’s digital world.

“It is becoming clear that students are looking for personalized attention in their educational experience,” said Miller, “and our Fall enrollment reflects that they are finding that at WNMU.”

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