Western Carolina University has posted a total enrollment of 11,877 for the fall semester and the start of the 2021-22 academic year.

WCU’s Office of Institutional Planning and Effectiveness released the numbers on the 10th day of classes (Friday, Sept. 3) as a demographic “snapshot” for state and federal reporting. All data is preliminary and not considered final until any errors have been corrected and files have been submitted to the University of North Carolina System offices.

While WCU didn’t set an overall enrollment record, the figures remain higher than all academic years prior to 2019-2020 and are consistent with expectations in light of the pandemic. As with many rural universities, WCU is seeing COVID-related decreases in the number of new first-time, first-year students and continuing undergraduate students.

“While 11,877 is a laudable number at this time in history, we also recognize those statistics reflect 11,877 students on an educational journey, each with their own individual goals and objectives,” Chancellor Kelli Brown said. “Western Carolina University is enhanced by each and every success story, each serves as our goodwill ambassador well into the future.”

Brown also credited the steady enrollment trend to WCU being one of the state’s three NC Promise universities. The legislative program sets tuition at $500 per semester for in-state undergraduate students and $2,500 per semester for out-of-state undergraduate students, and applies to all new and returning students, transfer students, students in online programs, and international students enrolled in fall and spring terms.

Enrollment gains were made in online programs, which have experienced a 38 percent increase since 2014. Students enrolled in fully distance programs make up nearly 18 percent of the WCU student body today.

“Western has been listed among the nation’s best providers of online degree programs by U.S. News & World Report,” Brown said. “The flexibility in taking digital and hybrid courses appeals to working professionals and distance students, and we continue to develop innovative, in demand online degrees.”

Broader diversity of the student body continued, with almost 8 percent more African Americans (722), a 7.4 percent increase of Native Americans (116), and a Hispanic enrollment of 891 compared to 865 in 2019. There are 6,894 female students and 4,983 males.