Campus focuses on community feel, retention as student body grows

April 20, 2015

April Wefler
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In 2011, UCCS had a student population of 9,339. Last fall, it grew to 11,147.

That growth has mostly been among traditional students. 1,143 students occupy 1,275 beds on campus. 865 students lived on campus in fall 2011.

Homer Wesley, vice chancellor for Student Success and Enrollment Management, said the university estimates there will be 13,000 students by 2020 and that an additional 2,000 will be enrolled in online, weekend or evening classes.

In order for UCCS to be considered a traditional school, 20 percent of students need to live on campus. Currently, 12 percent of students do so, keeping UCCS in the commuter category.

Ralph Giese, director of Residence Life and Housing, estimated that by 2020, 2,600 students could live on campus.

But he said that the university doesn’t plan to add any more beds and that there might not be enough beds for the 2,600 students.

Some students were attracted to UCCS due to the small population, but they don’t mind the population growth if UCCS continues to have small classes.

“There’s more options for master’s programs, hopefully, but a downfall is you don’t get that one-on-one with the professors,” said Heather Varano, senior English major.

“I think it’s cool that it’s expanding. I hope it preserves smaller classes because that’s a really big thing for me,” said Savian Malazada, sophomore nursing major.

“I think with a big population, it’s going to be hard to find a place to study in the library because there’s not a lot of rooms,” said Ahmed Almonayan, freshman engineering major.

Brett Fugate, director of Academic Advising, said that part of UCCS’ mission is to serve the needs of southern Colorado.

“A big part of southern Colorado is Colorado Springs, so I don’t know if we’ll ever tip the scales to become completely traditional or mostly traditional,” Fugate said.

Wesley said that UCCS wants to continue to have a supportive community feel.

Four classrooms hold 100 or more students. Wesley said UCCS doesn’t have plans to build any more big auditoriums and that it wants to continue to have small classes.

“We don’t want to just get you here. We want to get you through a degree,” he said.

The UCCS retention rate has floated between 60 and 70 percent since 1996.

As the university grows, UCCS is working on improving its freshman retention rate through programs like the summer bridge program and the Gateway Program Seminar.

A rigorous program created for the 2014 summer semester, the summer bridge program is a three week program of 15 new students considered at-risk for dropping out. The program focuses on helping the students learn how to do well in their college careers and providing them with the tools needed to succeed.

Wesley said the initiative was successful last summer. Students had a retention rate of 92 percent, as opposed to 88 percent of overall students who returned for the spring 2015 semester.

GPS, formerly known as freshman seminar, became a required course last fall to help with retention.

“It’s designed to help students make connections on campus, to learn their resources and to get them kind of really developing their writing skills and oral communication,” Fugate said.

Tom Hutton, executive director for university Communications and Media Relations, said UCCS doesn’t want to become a completely traditional school.

“I think we’re really going the direction we need to be, which is being a mixed model campus that meets students where they are or where they need to be,” Hutton said.