JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Officials with Arkansas State University told Region 8 News Monday it experienced record growth in the fall semester of 2009. The university has enrolled 12,185 students, up 695 students from the previous year. In a news release, Chancellor Dr. Robert Potts said the university has increased enrollment through recruitment in various departments.
According to the Office of Institutional Research, Planning and Assessment, the College of Education experienced the largest annual growth. Currently, 2,660 students are enrolled in education, which is up 465 students. The second largest growth was in the College of Nursing and Health Professions, which enrolled 2,196 students, up 70 students.
Dr. Susan Hanrahan , Dean of the College of Nursing and Health Professions, told Region 8 News her department has been working hard to increase its student population more than a decade.
"We put out a 10-year curriculum plan that included adding new programs, enhancing existing programs, adding tracks and distance-site delivery and a whole host of things. These kinds of programs have increased over the last 15 years," said Hanrahan.
Hanrahan said the College of Nursing and Health Professions has increased enrollment over the last six years. In the '03-'04 school year, ASU graduated 360 students. Last year, the university awarded 525 degrees. The university gradually increased the number of graduates every year.
"The retention of students is better. If you get students in and you support them, then you're going to be able to keep them. Our attrition numbers will be lower and our graduation rates will improve," said Hanrahan.
Hanrahan said the College of Nursing and Health Professions uses a selective process for admission. Students must meet certain criteria before they are admitted into nursing and other health care programs.
"It's not only high demand at the workplace. There is high demand at the university in the sense that we have a tremendous amount of work and expectations for our students. We have very high standards in these programs, and students have to learn a lot of information in a relatively short amount of time," said Hanrahan.
The university news release also reported record enrollment in international studies. Enrollment is up 96 students for a total of 418, which is the highest enrollment in 17 years.
"Our international student population continues to grow and that has certainly made a difference. Despite the fact that we have raised admission standards at the university, we're still seeing an enrollment trend," said Hanrahan.
Region 8 News spoke with several aspiring nurses Monday.
"I've always been interested in the medical field. I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do but I didn't want to go to school for 12 years to be a doctor," said Michael Throesch.
"It's very stressful because this is very important. Everything you do, you want to make sure you know how to do. You want to understand how to do it, because this is not about sitting in an office. If we screw up, it's not going to be good. It's going to be somebody's life on the line. So it's very important and you want to understand everything that you're studying," said Kayly Vest.
Vest and Throesch said they got into the nursing program at ASU for a number of reasons. Aside from the "good feelings" they had for patient care, they also said nursing is a recession proof field.
"I felt like it was a good field to be in. My aunt is an anesthesiologist in Springfield. She makes real good money. She has job security. She can get a job anywhere she wants," said Throesch. "I think there's a huge shortage for nurses, so there's plenty of jobs right now and in the next ten years."
"There are students in our class who are from other fields who can't find a job right now. That's a good option. For as long as there are people, people are going to be sick and they're going to need to be taken care of," said Vest.
Throesch said he studies about 70 hours per week, on average, since the beginning of the school year.
"It's real challenging. I don't know if they're trying to scare us the first week or not. We haven't been in it long enough to know how hard it's going to be. We've got our first test tomorrow (Tuesday)," said Throesch.
"Every night there are about four or five people who call or text me with like, 'what's due tomorrow or what's next', because we're always just trying to get everything done on time," said Vest. "I have class all day. There has not been one class since school started that I've had a free night. I've had stuff to do every night."
Region 8 News also spoke with Eric Green, a sophomore student from Lake City, AR. He said he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease at 5 years old. The diagnosis shaped his life's goals.
"I went to St. Jude. Children's Research Hospital, so that kind of had a big impact on me," said Green. "Growing up around the health profession and seeing the nurses and doctors and all the work that they do, I always knew that the health profession was for me."
Green was diagnosed with cancer in September, 1989. Next week will mark his 20-year anniversary.
"Helping people has always been something that I wanted to do in some sort of form. I was radiology at first, and then I switched to nursing because it seems to be more geared towards actually helping people instead of just seeing them come in and then leave," said Green.
Green said his experience with cancer will eventually allow him to better talk with patients.
"Being able to say, hey, I've been there. I know how you're feeling," said Green.
"It's amazing to be able to say that I've had cancer and I've battled it and for 20 years have not had a reoccurrence. After seven years, your risk factors of having cancer are almost as much as someone who has never had it," said Green.