Online programs boost university enrollment

Officials said the University of North Alabama’s current enrollment of 7,650 is the largest fall enrollment in the school’s 188-year history.

The historic mark is 158 more students than the previous enrollment record, which was a 7,492 mark set in fall 2016.

Online programs are one component of the overall University enrollment growth strategy.

“The university remains committed to offering high-quality, traditional, campus-based programs in addition to online degree programs,” said Bryan Rachal, director of communications and marketing at UNA. “At both the baccalaureate and graduate levels, online programs are primarily geared towards and focused upon adult learners who require the flexibility and convenience that online education offers.”

The fall 2018 semester saw a seven percent increase in the number of undergraduate transfer students and a 25 percent increase in the number of graduate students, almost all of whom are in online degree programs.

While over half of all UNA students take at least one online course, between 20-25 percent are exclusively enrolled in online degree programs and 80 percent of graduate students are enrolled online.

“Adult learners are a rapidly-increasing student population in the state of Alabama and beyond and UNA is strategic and intentional about recruiting and retaining them as students,” Rachal said.

UNA’s MBA program includes over 805 online students, making it the largest MBA program in the State of Alabama, larger than Auburn, Alabama and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, according to una.edu.

“The university is seeing significant enrollment growth in several online, graduate programs, including: Master of Science in Nursing, MS in Criminal Justice, Master of Professional Studies and the Master of Education, to name a few,” Rachal said.

The university is experiencing increased demand for its online degree programs, particularly at the graduate level, and will continue to prioritize and develop them accordingly. Recent additions to its portfolio of graduate, online degree programs include: M.S. in Mathematics, Master of Accountancy and the Family Nurse Practitioner track in the MSN program.

“At the undergraduate level, the Bachelor of Business Administration in Professional Management was launched in spring 2018 and is outpacing enrollment expectations,” Rachal said.

The spring 2019 term marks the launch of the B.S. in Applied Health Sciences in the Anderson College of Nursing and Health Professions. The online M.S. in Sport and Recreation Management in the College of Education and Human Sciences will launch in fall 2019.

“The University has been successful in online education and can differentiate itself in the marketplace due to the relevance and quality of its programs, strong faculty, and competitive price,” said Rachal. “The majority of students in the UNA’s online degree programs come from the University’s primary service region (north Alabama, southern Tennessee, northeast Mississippi) or across the State of Alabama (Huntsville, Birmingham, Montgomery).”

UNA also saw an increase in international student enrollment.

“International students increasingly view UNA as a viable option to earn a high-quality baccalaureate or graduate degree, or both,” said Dr. Chunsheng Zhang, senior vice provost for International Affairs.

International student enrollment at UNA is up 65 percent, when the national average for international students studying in the U.S., is down 32 percent, according to una.edu.

“The environment for enrollment remains very challenging, with many universities in our state and region experiencing decreases in student headcount,” said UNA president Dr. Kenneth Kitts. “So, we are proud to be breaking records. The quality, diversity, relevance and affordability of our undergraduate and graduate programs distinguish us from our peers, and students are noticing.”

Rachal said the university has seen growth in the Nashville and Atlanta markets.

“To maintain this positive growth trajectory, the University will continue to expand into new markets, engage new constituencies of learners, and develop in-demand programs that can propel career growth for adult learners in a number of industries and fields,” Rachal said.

The enrollment management division at UNA is comprised of four departments.

The enrollment management devision is “committed to creating a culture of engaged partnerships university wide that enhance the student services experiences through the development and implementation of student-centered services that supports student success,” according to una.edu.

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