It is an honor to serve as interim president of West Chester University, one of the top regional comprehensive public universities in the nation. We value and uphold our mission to provide the best educational opportunities possible which will enable the University community to successfully address the concerns of a global society.
Serving more than 16,000 students at the undergraduate and graduate levels, West Chester University has earned a national reputation for excellence, value and student success. WCU is one of the most sought-after universities in the mid-Atlantic region. We have received more than 13,700 applications for the fall 2016 first-year class, which will be comprised of approximately 2,500 students. We are the largest state-owned university in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the premier state institution in such key measures as retention and graduation rates.
West Chester University became a doctoral-degree granting institution in 2013 with the introduction of the Doctor of Nursing Practice. Last fall, the University began its second doctoral program, the Doctor of Public Administration. This summer, we will launch the Doctor of Education in Education Policy, Planning, and Administration. Distance education, both fully online classes as well as programs involving limited campus time, also is flourishing. Seats in distance education at WCU have increased 455% from three years ago.
We continue to expand our international learning experiences. Currently, WCU has partnerships with 25 colleague institutions worldwide for cultural, educational, and scholarly exchanges. In 2014-15, the University sponsored 454 student international learning experiences, a 28% increase over the previous year. A new English-as-second-language program, launching in June 2016, should help to further increase international enrollment on WCU's own campus.
Research shows that participation in study abroad programs has both individual and social benefits, contributing to the development of human and social capital. Service-learning coursework also can be life-changing for our students, and for the people that they serve. I am proud of the fact that we have created a culture of service, a culture that contributes to the common good while placing our students on a lifelong path of active citizenship.
This year, the University was once again named to the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll in the area of General Community Service. This award is the highest federal recognition an institution can receive for community service. During the past academic year, WCU students participated in more than 812,000 hours of public service through service-learning coursework. This set a new record for service-learning at WCU.
West Chester University has accomplished much in recent years and the future is even brighter. I encourage you to learn more about this great University via this website and to visit us in person in the near future.