As the excitement of the beginning of a new semester gives way to exams, homework and routine, students, faculty and staff at Lamar State College-Orange are celebrating yet another successful enrollment count for the current semester. After seeing enrollment trends increase over the last four years, the final numbers for the fall semester have rolled in and show record-breaking figures.

As of the twelfth class day, which was Sept.6, an increase of 4.03 percent was recorded compared to the fall semester of 2010. The official student headcount on campus was 2,763 as opposed to 2,656 from the previous fall. The contact hour total also increased 1.08 percent, and the credit hour total jumped from 25,637 to 25,854, an increase of .85 percent. Dr. Michael Shahan, president of LSC-O, says these numbers are indicative of several things at work.

“First, it shows that students are seeing the quality of our product,” he said. “The second is value.”

Shahan said the faculty at LSC-O does a great job teaching students and the academic transfer courses match up with any other institutions in the state. He noted that the vocational and technical programs at LSC-O are relevant to the local job market and provide the skills students need to learn to earn a living. Personal service from faculty and staff, along with an attractive campus are also important factors as to why LSC-O has seen such growth over the last few years.

“And you can get these courses and programs at an affordable cost,” said Shahan. “Students are able to start their education with us and save enough money to complete their studies at four-year institutions like Lamar University, Sam Houston or the University of Texas. Working students can take classes here and not break the family budget.”

Plus, he says the plethora of financial aid, including grants, loans and scholarships available at LSC-O, help ease the burden for qualifying students. Fortunately, for LSC-O students, the threat of rising costs of attendance is significantly lower at LSC-O than other institutions experiencing such an increase at the current time. State support for higher education has decreased significantly over the last 10 years, forcing colleges and universities to pass costs on to students in the form of higher tuition and fees.

“At LSC-O we are very conscious of the economic burden that these increases place upon our students,” said Shahan. “We have tried to keep costs down so that students can pursue their dreams and get the education they need in order to compete in today’s job market.”

Tuition and fees at LSC-O will not increase for the spring 2012 semester. For a student taking 12 semester credit hours, this means a savings of anywhere from $168 to $300 when compared to other local campuses. And the reason why there is no increase can be directly attributed to a growing enrollment.

While LSC-O’s general revenue appropriation for fiscal years 2012 and 2013 did decrease from the fiscal years 2010 and 2011 amount, the FY10/FY11 amount was reduced by five percent and then reduced by another two-and-a-half percent. When you take those reductions into account, the actual amount of money available to LSC-O for the next two years was increased by about two-and-a-half percent.

Shahan says the State of Texas uses a formula to calculate appropriations, and a key factor in that formula is contact hour enrollment. Every two years, the Legislative Budget Board monitors enrollment and uses the figures to determine how much of the State’s higher education is appropriated to each institution. While the amount of money available to higher education was smaller due to state-wide budget cuts, LSC-O’s enrollment increased by 31.73 percent.

“That increase gave us a bigger share of the available funds,” he said. “Because we have the same amount of money with which to operate, we did not have to lay off any employees or reduce any services.”

And for that reason, students, faculty and staff have plenty to celebrate at the onset of another successful semester.

“I am very proud of the great job done by our faculty and staff,” said Shahan. “And I am gratified by the confidence that students have shown in our institution.”