by Valerie Verkamp
Factoring in the rising cost of tuition, the actual number of students that graduate, as well as the stagnant job market, students and their parents may contemplate whether seeking a college degree is the right choice, but despite these potential reservations an increased number of students are pursuing a college degree at Park University.
Although the cost undergraduates pay for tuition increased 4.8 percent this year over last spring, student enrollment at Park University in downtown Parkville has increased 2.3 percent among undergraduate students.
At Park's 40 campus centers across the nation, undergraduate students enrolled in online courses increased by 21 percent even after the cost of online courses rose to $341 per credit hour. A 4.5 percent increase over last year.
“We are pleased that more and more students are finding Park University the right choice to meet their educational needs,” said Eric Blair, director of undergraduate admissions.
This fall, student enrollment escalated to 1,670 undergraduates largely due to an increase of new freshmen and transfer students. Last fall, there were 1,163 undergraduates enrolled full-time and 456 undergraduates enrolled part-time at the campus in downtown Parkville.
There was also an increase in the number of non-traditional adult learners at Park University's Downtown Kansas City campus and online. More than 870 students enrolled in either master's degree programs or graduate certificate programs.
Blair says the student enrollment increases have a lot to do with the university’s marketing efforts, which have focused on reaching a larger audience and informing their audience of the high value a private education can offer.
Blair said there has been a major effort spent on “making sure people know we are here.”
Despite a growing student body, a relatively small number of students actually graduate within a four year duration.
Twenty-two percent of full-time undergraduate students who initially enrolled in the summer or fall of 2005 to obtain a bachelor's degree at Park University were eligible to graduate four years later. U-CAN (University & College Accountability Network) data indicates.
Within five years, 35% of full-time undergraduate students seeking a four year degree at Park University who enrolled in the fall of 2005 completed their degree requirements, while 39% completed their degree by the six year mark, says data provided by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU).
Among those that graduated last year, 41% paid at least a portion of their education from borrowed funds. On average, Park grads had $21,630 of debt, which is below the national average.
U-CAN, developed by NAICU, provides prospective students and their parents with easily comparable data on universities and private colleges. The consumer-friendly website offers information including statistics on graduation rates, tuition trends, accreditation, class size, cost of attendance, financial aid, and life on campus on hundreds of schools.
The website is free to consumers and to participating institutions. The site allows users to search universities and private colleges in various ways including location, tuition cost, and graduation rates. U-CAN also offers links to resources potential students may find helpful.
Consumers, for example, will discover that during the 2011-2012 academic year, full-time students living on campus seeking a bachelor's degree at Park University paid $9,900 on tuition and fees and $7,045 on room and board, while students at William Jewel College, another liberal arts school in the Kansas City metropolitan area, spent $30,200 on tuition and fees and $7,790 on room and board.
U-CAN also informs its users on trends.
A bar graph indicates to consumers that since 2007 the cost of tuition and fees at Park University has risen each year and users can draw their own conclusions as to the future cost of tuition and fees.
Additionally students might be interested in knowing the number of students who land a job following graduation, as well as what type of career development services that are in place.
Layne Prenger, director of career development, describes the Career Development Center at Park University as an online “information bank,” which prepares and assists students in their career search. The center benefits students who choose to use the provided service by helping them establish a career plan. Students can choose to utilize the center throughout their entire college experience to research internships and identify potential employers.
In addition to the center's online tools, Park also hosts numerous career events, including a graduation festival to further inform students of the resources provided to graduates.
At this time Park University does not have a formal process in place to track the number of students that land a job in their field following graduation, which might come as shocking to some since the main purpose behind attending college is to eventually gain employment.
Prenger said school officials are in the process of deciding which department would best provide these statistics. She said previously the career development center maintained this information, but later it was tracked by the alumni community since it communicated more frequently with former students.