UMR is experiencing dramatic enrollment growth at a time when student interest in science, computing and engineering has fallen to all-time lows.
The official fall 2006 enrollment numbers show an increase for the sixth consecutive year. A total of 5,858 students are currently enrolled for the fall semester. That figure represents a 4.6 percent increase over last fall’s enrollment and a 26 percent growth over the 4,625 students attending UMR in the fall 2000 semester.
More women and under-represented minorities are enrolled in UMR classes this fall as well.
“Over the past years, the UMR community has come together and made tremendous strides in building one of the most engaging student learning environments in the nation," says UMR Chancellor John F. Carney III. "We are very pleased with our enrollment growth trend, and elated with the increasing student success levels.”
Since 2000, undergraduate enrollment at UMR has grown by 817 students (22 percent) to 4,515, while graduate enrollment has grown by 415 students (45 percent) to 1,343.
“Our plan was to strategically and aggressively grow the enrollment with a more diverse and highly talented student body,” says Dr. John F. Carney III, UMR Chancellor. “Over the past years, the UMR community has come together and made tremendous strides in building one of the most engaging student learning environments in the nation. We are very pleased with our enrollment growth trend, and elated with the increasing student success levels.”
A contrast to national trends
The growth pattern for UMR, Missouri’s technological research university, stands in contrast to market and enrollment data that shows a decline in interest in engineering and related subjects.
Recent reports indicate that less than 5 percent of this year’s college bound students were interested in studying engineering. The Engineering Workforce Commission on engineering enrollments shows that nationwide, first-year engineering student numbers have fallen by more than 6,000 students since 2002.
Factors that contribute to the university’s consistent growth include a record number of re-enrollment rates among students, growth in graduate and online degree programs, and significant increases in female and minority students. This fall, the university also welcomed the largest freshman class in more than two decades.
The first-time freshman students represent the third-largest class in UMR history. In addition, the school’s nationally recognized Freshman Engineering Program has achieved an all-time high enrollment with more than 820 students.
More than 300 of the new freshmen achieved scored in the upper 3 percent nationally on the ACT or SAT entrance exams. The average ACT score for UMR students is now 27.2, the upper 10 percent in the nation.
Record enrollment for females, minorities
UMR has also achieved record numbers of female and minority students in the student body this fall, with 600 minority, non-Caucasian students enrolled, up from 377 in the fall 2000. The 382 Hispanic and African-American students is a 69 percent increase since fall 2000 and establishes a new school enrollment record.
“The increases in female and minority students is significant and reflects UMR’s dedication to the campus diversity initiative,” Carney says. “The recent growth shown in these areas points to the excellent support students are receiving from our Women’s Leadership Institute and Student Diversity Programs Office. Our campuswide diversity efforts and reputation are attracting these students, even in the face of stiff competition from colleges and universities nationwide.”
UMR’s online and distance education programs have also grown, doubling in size since 2000. Currently 453 graduate students are completing masters or doctorate degree programs over the internet or at the St. Louis and Ft. Wood education sites.
“The total enrollment growth was planned and executed as part of the university’s strategic plan,” says Jay Goff, dean of enrollment management at UMR. “Increasing the returning student success levels was key to our expansion plans.”
Another core element of UMR’s recruitment and retention efforts has been to target prospective students who are likely to succeed at the university. UMR has achieved a 87 percent student retention rate. The student success rates at Rolla are among the highest in Missouri and the Midwest.
An uphill battle
Because of UMR’s heavy science and engineering focus, the university has always had an uphill battle in retaining students. A 2001 Center for Institutional Data Exchange and Analysis report estimated that 31 percent of all US students enrolled in mathematics, engineering, technology or science (METS) either transferred to a non-METS degree or dropped out of school completely.
“All of our prospective student communications place a large emphasis on the success of our students and the benefits of our interactive campus experience, but most students focus on the outcomes achieved by our graduates,” says Lynn Stichnote, UMR director of admissions.
A UMR 2005-2006 graduate survey indicates that around 95 percent of last year’s graduates are either employed or pursuing additional education. The average starting salary for the responding new graduates was more than $51,000.
The six-year enrollment boom has occurred across campus, not just in UMR’s engineering programs. More than 24 percent of the enrollment increase can be attributed to UMR’s expanded degree offerings. There are currently 1,296 students enrolled in the university’s 14 business, information science and technology, natural and social science programs.
“Like most of the nation’s other technological research universities, students are finding that academic excellence and high technology go hand in hand,” Stichnote says. “Studying any field at UMR gives students an edge that they would not find at most colleges. Our academically competitive, tech-savvy atmosphere gives students an advantage, and a professional network, that many companies are seeking in new employees.”
UMR remains popular for Missouri students, with 4,076 residents enrolled, reflecting 70 percent of the student body. This fall UMR has students enrolled from 49 states and 51 foreign nations. The international student population is starting recover from the post-September 11 declines that began four years ago.
“Recruiting students from across the country and throughout the world is a benefit to the campus community,” Goff says. “Exposing our students to people from other parts of the nation and the world adds to our cultural diversity. We believe it is very important for the university to provide an atmosphere that broadens the minds and experiences of our students.”
UMR is re-evaluating its strategic goals for the next five years. “We believe UMR could still serve additional students, especially additional graduate students, but we do not want to grow to a level that sacrifices the quality of our educational experience,” Goff says.
If the university grows by another 2.5 percent next year, it could exceed 6,000 students in the coming years.