NAU keeps classes small with increasing enrollment

Northern Arizona University’s official enrollment count confirms earlier predictions of continued record growth, but also reaffirms the university’s dedication to small class sizes and personal attention.

In figures released this week for the official “21-day count,” total enrollment at NAU reached an all-time high at 25,204 students, up from 23,600 in 2009. Flagstaff campus enrollment grew to 17,529, up more than 9 percent from 16,032 last year.

NAU welcomed more than 6,400 new students this fall, of which about 4,100 are freshmen. That is an 11.6 percent increase in new freshmen over 2009.

Orientation leaders
Photo by Amanda Voisard

View the complete enrollment report on the Planning, Budget and Institutional Research website. Class sizes have remained level since 2000, even with record-breaking growth experienced over the last five years. The Flagstaff campus currently averages 31 students per class, with 15 students on average at NAU-Yuma and at community campuses around the state.

A decade ago, classes averaged 29 students in Flagstaff with an average 14 students per class at NAU-Yuma. Community campuses, which began in 2003, opened with an average class size of 14 students.

To meet the growing demand, required undergraduate courses have increased from 604 to 760 sections since 2007, with utilization of courses at 97 percent, up from 92 percent three years ago.

Karen Pugliesi, vice provost of Academic Affairs, said the university prepares for increases in student enrollment to meet students’ needs while maintaining the personalized experience that they expect from NAU.

“We have grown a lot, but we’ve also grown our course offerings progressively,” Pugliesi said. “We consider our recruiting targets and projections a year in advance, and evaluate our capacity to meet those needs. We have expanded and we’re using what we’ve added efficiently.”

NAU measures student satisfaction through the National Survey of Student Engagement, a valuable tool for evaluating the quality of the student’s experience and essential during periods of growth, Pugliesi added.

In addition to growth in overall enrollment, the university saw record increases in ethnic student populations, most notably in Latino and international students. Latino students increased by 17 percent over last year from 3,271 to 3,843, and international enrollment jumped 51 percent from 573 to 866 students.

“Through focused efforts, our recruiting and international education staff have significantly contributed to increases in the diversity of our student population,” said David Bousquet, senior vice president of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs. “The end result is an enhanced educational experience for our students.”

Undergraduate enrollment increased by more than 10 percent, with increases at NAU-Yuma, Flagstaff campus and online. Graduate enrollment was down slightly from 5,299 to 5,010.