LEXINGTON, Ky. ― Even as enrollment in colleges and universities is declining nationally, University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto said today that UK is welcoming its largest ever first-year class ― a class also marked by historic levels of students in terms of diversity and academic quality.
As importantly, Capilouto told members of the Board of Trustees Tuesday, preliminary data for this school year underscores UK's commitment to student success as retention rates between 2011 and 2012 increased by more than 1 percent from 81.3 percent to 82.5 percent.
"The University of Kentucky is an institution with tremendous momentum, reflected this fall in record numbers of students and historic levels of academic quality and diversity," Capilouto said. "These students are coming to UK to study with outstanding faculty and staff on a campus undergoing an exciting transformation.
At UK, there is no question: we are focused on putting students first in everything that we do. We have more work to do and more improvement to make, but we are on the move as an institution that is the first choice for students in the Commonwealth and beyond."
Highlights of UK's enrollment for fall 2013 include:
•4,702 first-year students are enrolled this year, up from 4,647 in fall 2012, also a record. UK broke 19,000 applications for the first time this year, with 19,810, also a record number.
•Overall, UK has enrolled more than 29,000 students for the first time, with 29,410, up from 28,928 last year. Specifically, 21,523 students this fall are undergraduates, up from 20,878 last year. The rest are broken down between graduate and professional students and residents.
•About 70 percent of those first-year students are Kentucky residents and 30 percent are from outside of Kentucky, roughly the same as last year.
•UK enrolled 105 national Merit, National Achievement and National Hispanic Finalists in its first-year class this fall, up from 71 last year, which placed UK among the Top 15 public institutions in the country.
•555 first-year African-American students are enrolled this fall ― also a record number ― up from a record 533 last year. African-American enrollment has increased steadily since 2008. Hispanic student numbers in the first-year class have hit 200 for the first time this fall, up from 167 last year. Those numbers, too, have increased each year since 2008.
•Finally, this first-year class has record numbers of students with perfect ACT/SAT composite scores ― nine in the first-year class and 24 on campus overall ― as well as record numbers of students scoring between 28 and 36 on their ACT and between 31 and 36. The ACT composite average of 25.3 as well as the average high-school GPA and numbers of entering first-year students with 4.0 high school GPAs remained about the same as last year.
•Capilouto cited the growth in the Honors Program ― which has increased from about 250 to some 400 students ― and an ongoing expansion of Living and Learning Programs and Communities as the kinds of initiatives attracting interest in UK. UK has built the number of Living Learning Communities to 13 over the past 24 years and expects to grow that number to 19 by next fall.
•At the graduate and professional levels, the numbers have declined slightly, although notably, the number of degrees awarded has increased ― a reflection that the university at the graduate level is becoming more selective and is also graduating students more quickly, at numbers now above the national average.
Capilouto said the improved retention numbers also are important because they reflect the focus the university is placing on improving both the rigor of the educational experience and graduation rates. However, he said the progress -- while noteworthy -- is not reason to pause and celebrate.
"We are making progress because we are all intently focused on improvement," Capilouto said. "But we have more progress to make. Too many students still leave our university -- or higher education in general -- before graduating. That is a loss for us. It's a loss for Kentucky. Honoring the promise of this university means we must continue to re-double our efforts and make continual progress in this important area as well. At UK, I know we are all committed to that goal."
"Two years ago we directed President Capilouto to make strengthening the undergraduate experience a top priority for the university," said UK Board Chairman Britt Brockman. "With his steadfast commitment and determined leadership -- along with the strong support of the board and the entire campus -- it has been a priority and today underscores once again the tangible results we are achieving -- for the university and for the Commonwealth we serve."