The College of Business and Economics is experiencing its largest enrollment in its history this fall, if early indicators are correct.
Although official numbers won't be available until later in the semester, based on first-day headcount 2,176 undergraduates will be part of the College this fall. Since 2011, when the College began admitting freshmen for the first time, freshmen enrollment has grown each year: 2011, 419; 2012, 429, and this fall a leap to 462. With transfer students, the total is 556.
That amounts to a total undergraduate enrollment this fall that is about double what it was when only juniors and seniors were part of the College.
Speaking to B&E faculty and staff at the College's annual meeting held the week before the opening of the semester, Dean Jose Sartarelli said B&E's freshman enrollment has increased this year more than that of any other WVU college.
"Going to a four-year format was a huge move forward," he said. "We were losing students because we didn't accept freshmen into the College. Now, our student quality is improving significantly, as is enrollment."
Grade point averages and standardized test scores are all up, said Joe Seiaman, assistant dean and director of Undergraduate Programs and Advising. "We're all very excited," he said.
Karen Donovan is associate dean for academic affairs and associate professor of marketing. "There are a lot of positive things going on that have caused this enrollment increase," she commented. "We are offering a more flexible business major, and programs such as our major in hospitality and tourism are really appealing to students."
Another reason for large enrollments, especially in business schools, is that students today are looking for top return on investment. "Students are certainly looking at ROI," she said, "and the majors offered in business are among those that are most attractive to this mindset." The College was recently ranked #9 in the nation in the category of Top Undergraduate Business Schools for Return on Investment (ROI) out of 124 top-ranked business schools.
Top-ranking ROI business schools provide their students with a balance between tuition costs and initial salary upon graduation. Students are leaving college with substantial debt loads in a challenging job market, she said, and they and their parents are glad to know that their investment is well spent.
Dr. Donovan said more students can be a challenge, however. "Obviously we have a facilities issue," she said, alluding to the College's home, which was first occupied in 1990 and whose capacity was reached in recent years. "But importantly, we have hired 14 new faculty, and we have actually made some classes smaller. We are doing a lot to personalize the educational experience for our students."
Retaining students is one issue that is getting attention, Seiaman commented. It is one thing to admit approximately 500 new students; and another to get them all through to graduation day. "We are focusing on retention," he said. "We really want all of our students to be successful."
To this end, new students will spend at least three hours each week in the Business Learning Resource Center as a part of their introduction to business course. "We'll be keeping track of the number of times students log into the Center," Seiaman said.
New freshman Nina Benhamida is excited and a little nervous about her first year.
In the Center, which opened in 2012, communications consultants help students improve written and oral communication by providing feedback to help them develop and refine their work. Additionally, he said, at the beginning of the spring semester students who are having difficulties will be required to attend Building a Business Mindset, a course that will help them with time management, note taking and other study skills based on business case studies. "We'll be monitoring students' progress very closely and giving them all the help we can," he said.
At WVU enrollment is up as well, based on early data. Official enrollment figures won't be available until October.
Nina Benhamida is from Northern Virginia, and most of her friends from high school enrolled in James Madison University. She decided to attend WVU's College of Business and Economics.
"I'm really excited, and a little nervous," said the freshman, who is interested in international business. Benhamida loves football and friendly people.
"I visited this campus, and everyone was so friendly. I really like West Virginia, plus, this is a college town with lots of football fans."