By Todd Hardy
Arizona Summer Wildcat June 25, 1997
AIC anticipating 100 students for fall semester
Despite falling short of its goal of signing up 250 full-time students by the beginning of the fall semester, enrollment at the Arizona International Campus of the UA will triple by the time classes begin in August.
"We have seen a steady rise in the level of interest from high school seniors and possible transfer students," said Mike Celaya, director of enrollment services at AIC.
When classes begin Aug. 25, Celaya said he expects about 100 new students to be enrolled in classes at the year-old campus, which is housed in the University of Arizona Science and Technology Park, 9000 S. Rita Road.
AIC was conceptualized in 1992 as a small liberal arts branch campus that would ease the pressure of enrollment growth at the UA's main campus.
In May 1996, the Arizona Board of Regents approved AIC's curriculum plan and capped enrollment at 5,000. The regents will review AIC's enrollment progress in May 1999.
The new campus opened its doors last August to a freshman class of 44 students - less than half of AIC's projected first-year enrollment.
In January, amid concern over declining enrollment at the UA main campus, the Arizona Legislature added a footnote to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee's university budget recommendation, asking that state funding for AIC be eliminated if the campus failed to enroll 300 full-time students by October.
The Legislature later dropped that requirement, but AIC officials said the ultimatum had a detrimental effect on recruitment.
Celaya said the timing of the Legislature's proposal was unfortunate, occurring when the rate of applications sent to colleges and universities was highest.
"A lot of students who applied for admission heard those rumors about what was going on in the Legislature and withdrew their applications," Celaya said.
Celestino Fernandez, executive vice president and provost of AIC, agreed.
Without that footnote, Fernandez said AIC may have been able to meet its goal of enrolling 250 students for the coming academic year.
While Fernandez is glad to get 100 new students, he said the state has put unrealistic expectations on AIC to increase enrollment.
"It's like starting a business," Fernandez said. "Any reasonable person understands that you need a few years to get an institution running."
AIC will continue to accept applications until the week before classes begin; however, Fernandez said he doubts that enrollment will grow substantially in the meantime.
"We recognize that most students have already made up their minds about college by this point in the summer," he said.
So with sights set on the future, AIC recently launched an extensive advertising campaign - promoting the campus in newspapers, on billboards and on radio stations throughout Arizona.
Fernandez said he hopes the campaign will boost enrollment for the 1998-99 academic year. He said he expects enrollment to increase dramatically in 1998, when AIC implements its junior year curriculum and begins accepting transfer students from community colleges and other universities.
Meanwhile, AIC unveils its sophomore curriculum this fall to about 45 students returning from last year's inaugural freshman class.
Many of the students who signed on for AIC's first year said they were attracted by the smaller classes and heightened interaction between students and professors. However, most of those students also said they support AIC's efforts to boost enrollment ov er the next few years.
Sarah Semadeni, a fine arts sophomore at AIC, said having 100 new students on campus will mean a little less personal attention for her class. Nevertheless, she said she looks forward to the change.
"We have been so spoiled but we are also looking forward to seeing the new class," Semadeni said.
Having more students on campus will also provide for a wider range of social interaction, said Sheila Kressler, an international business management sophomore at AIC.
All in all, Kressler said she enjoyed the small classes at AIC, but going to school with the same 45 people each day could be limiting at times.
"I'd like to see more faces out there," she said.