UAF

Pedestrians pass in front of Stevens Hall on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus Wednesday afternoon, July 12, 2017. 

The University of Alaska Fairbanks saw an increase in new student enrollment this fall, a surprising statistic given the massive shift in instruction methods and campus life during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This specific uptick counters a general drop in enrollment over all of the University of Alaska Fairbanks campuses and flat enrollment among all students at the main Fairbanks campus.

UAF keeps track of weekly enrollment at each of its campuses during the beginning phases of each semester. After the deadline to add or drop classes passes, enrollment officials craft a more finalized report of enrollment levels based on a number of factors.

The report, usually available about a month after the semester begins, relays general enrollment numbers but also splits data into specific student groups, locations and programs.

Samara Taber, acting associate vice chancellor for enrollment management, cited aggressive recruiting as one of the possible reasons for the increase.

“We were concerned about our fall enrollment, given the unprecedented number of obstacles our students are facing this year when making their choice about college,” Taber said in a statement. “I think the increase in new student enrollment reflects the work of our strategic enrollment plan, our recruitment team and the success of our new enrollment initiatives, such as the Nanook Pledge scholarship.”

Data shows an increase of about 3.4% in new undergraduate students and 4.1% in new first-year students at the Fairbanks campus and a jump of more than 21% in new graduate students, according to enrollment records. Among the schools and colleges, the School of Management’s new undergraduate enrollment increased by nearly 54%.

Other programs on the Fairbanks campus saw increases in enrollment. These include the School of Education, which recorded a jump of 8.8% in overall enrollment, and the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences increased by nearly 5%.

Most of the other schools and colleges at the Fairbanks campus remained flat in enrollment or felt a slight drop.

Student enrollment was of particular concern this fall as the university braced to deal with instruction, nearly all delivered by distance methods, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an effort to stem the spread of the virus on campus, about half of the more than 2,000 course sections planned for the fall semester are being taught entirely online while the other half is being provided in a hybrid approach that combines online instruction and face-to-face classroom time.

Before the start of the semester, UAF implemented a campus-wide policy requiring the use of masks or cloth face coverings by students, staff, faculty and visitors inside any university facility or building at all times and outside when 6 feet of distance from others is not possible.

In-person courses include certain precautionary methods such as rotating student schedules in science labs, for example, in an effort to keep student groupings as small as possible.

A total of 76 cases of COVID-19 have been discovered among UAF students, staff, faculty and contractors since Aug. 17, according to a virus dashboard regularly updated by campus officials. More than 1,200 tests have been administered at the UAF Student Health and Counseling Center on campus.

Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.