University of Nebraska System enrollment hits 22-year high

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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Enrollment has hit a 22-year high in the University of Nebraska system.

Administrators said Tuesday that 51,835 students are enrolled for the 2015 fall semester at the University of Nebraska's four campuses and the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture. That marks the highest system total since 1993.

Enrollment records were set at the university's Lincoln and Omaha medical center campuses and at the College of Technical Agriculture, while the University of Nebraska at Omaha is preparing for its largest incoming and freshman classes ever. Overall enrollment is up 1.2 percent over the last year.

"Enrollment growth at the University of Nebraska is good news for our state, particularly given today's extremely competitive higher education marketplace," system President Hank Bounds said.

Bounds said that in the next few years, more than 70 percent of all Nebraska jobs will require education beyond high school.

Enrollment at the College of Technical Agriculture, a two-year agriculture college, increased 33 percent compared to last year, administrators said. The number of full-time students increased 4.8 percent to hit 239, and the enrollment of high school students in dual-credit courses nearly doubled to 254 this semester from 130 last year.

A continued decline at the University of Nebraska at Kearney campus dimmed the system's otherwise bright enrollment picture. The campus reported a 2.2 percent drop in enrollment compared to last year, with 6,747 students enrolled for the fall semester. The campus reported a 2.1 percent drop a year ago, and a 2 percent drop in fall 2013.

Kearney's director of undergraduate admissions, Dusty Newton, said the decline is in part due to ebbed recruiting of international students that resulted from the loss of an administrator in January 2014. The administrator wasn't replaced until February 2015, he said.

But he said most of the Kearney campus' students live less than 100 miles from the south-central Nebraska school, and each year there are fewer high school graduates to recruit. U.S. Census records show the area and other rural parts of Nebraska have been losing population for years as people leave farming or move to bigger cities in search of more employment opportunities, higher wages, choices in schools and housing and other amenities.

Despite the challenges, getting more Nebraskans in Kearney campus classrooms is being discussed at sessions on strategic planning, Newton said.

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