Kentucky colleges and universities hit a historic high for enrollment this fall, with more more than 256,000 students, according to estimates by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education.
That estimate represents a 5.4 percent increase from fall 2008 and a 40 percent jump from 10 years ago, according to the CPE. Undergraduate enrollment grew by 6 percent from last year, while the ranks of graduate students swelled by 3 percent to more than 30,400.
The growth reflects larger freshmen classes at many of the schools and increased retention of students after their freshmen year.
The Kentucky Community and Technical College System experienced the largest jump — 11 percent — and saw its total enrollment hit 100,000 for the first time, according to CPE figures.
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Each of the state's four-year public universities saw at least a slight enrollment increase over last fall. Kentucky State University in Frankfort registered the largest percentage leap, 6.6 percent, bringing its estimated enrollment to 2,834 students.
Eastern Kentucky University gained 219 students from last year, a 1.4 percent increase, bringing enrollment to 16,250 students. The University of Kentucky added 189 students, a 0.7 percent increase, to raise its enrollment to 27,102.
Kentucky's private colleges collectively grew by 2.8 percent and have a total enrollment of 31,264.
CPE president Bob King called the figures "a welcome development" that will help the state in the long run.
"All of this bodes well for enhancing the commonwealth's economic recovery, creating the best-educated and best-trained work force — exactly what 21st-century employers are looking for," King said in a statement.
An official enrollment report will be released in January.
In 1997, the Kentucky General Assembly set a goal of doubling the number of four-year degree holders in the state from 400,000 to 800,000 by 2020.
At last count, 565,000 Kentuckians had bachelor's degrees or above, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2008 American Community Survey.