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University School asks for enrollment increase

River Hills allows possible students from 1,100 to 1,250 for potential expansion

June 22, 2012

River Hills - The Village Board on Wednesday approved a request by staff at the University School of Milwaukee to increase annual enrollment caps from 1,100 to 1,250 students across all grade levels, starting with the upcoming 2012-13 school year.

With an estimated 1,090 students expected to attend the K-12 USM this fall, Laura Fuller, head of the school, said she and other school officials wanted to be proactive, in the event enrollment were to increase. At the moment, school officials do not anticipate exceeding 1,100 students in the fall.

"But we thought it would be prudent to come now, rather than scramble later," Fuller said.

When asked by the board on future facilities plans, Fuller said the request to increase enrollment is not tied to any physical expansion efforts on the USM campus.

"I don't have a crystal ball, but I don't foresee anything happening in the next few years," Fuller said. "I can't imagine us taking on anything further."

Fuller said there were two reasons behind the request - maintaining financial sustainability and making use of the existing space.

"We recently completed a campus space study and came to the conclusion that our enrollment capacity would be 1,250 students," Fuller said. "As we plan for the future, it has become apparent that the 1,100 enrollment capacity limitation does not completely allow for utilization of our current physical capacity."

The existing 1,100-student cap has been in place since 1987. Since then, USM's median enrollment has hovered around 1,062 students. The campus' largest enrollment on record is 1,097 students.

The possibility of opening USM up to other students also could offset a series of events throughout the past four years.

"The economic downturn had an impact on our enrollment, endowment and ultimately our operating budget," Fuller said. "A smaller tuition revenue pool and lower endowment draw have directly affected our operating budget. Increasing enrollment is the main way for us to increase revenue."

Between 2003 and 2007, Fuller said average tuition costs increased 4.7 percent. From 2008 onward, tuition increased 3.6 percent.

The 1,250-student enrollment figure will be tied to a 25-year plan for the school, Fuller said.

Throughout last week's discussion, River Hills board members were amenable to USM's request.

"I really believe this is one of the greatest assets this village has," Trustee J. Stephen Anderson said of USM.

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