"As the economy recovers, we must build on this momentum, which ties in to West Virginia's new master plan for higher education. By continuing our focus on access, we make available to our students a world of opportunity and success by gaining their degrees, and they, in turn, make a lasting impact on our state," Hill said. "There are challenges, but that is the goal, and we are well positioned to achieve it."
About 1,000 fewer students attended a public four-year college in West Virginia in spring 2013 than they did in spring 2012, resulting in a 1.6 percent decline, according to HEPC data.
The decrease in the state's public two-year colleges was greater, at nearly 6 percent, or a loss of about 1,400 students from spring 2012 to spring 2013.
West Virginia University's enrollment did not decrease, though. WVU gained nearly 200 students from 2012-13, while Marshall University lost more than 250 students, for a 1.9 percent decrease in enrollment.
The biggest decline nationwide is at four-year for-profit institutions, which decreased enrollment by 8.7 percent over the past year, according to National Student Clearinghouse.
Hill said the HEPC will continue to focus on keeping higher education "accessible and affordable," and is optimistic about enrollment, pointing to an increased number of adult students in West Virginia.
More than 1,000 Regents Bachelor of Arts degrees were awarded in West Virginia for the first time last year. The program is designed especially for nontraditional students.
"More students are graduating, and more economically disadvantaged students are going to college than ever before in our state," Hill said.
Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.m...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.