Large freshman class helps give St. Thomas a record-high undergraduate enrollment

Large freshman class helps give St. Thomas a record-high undergraduate enrollment

Another large freshman class this fall helped to give the University of St. Thomas its highest undergraduate enrollment on record. A 4 percent undergraduate increase offset a 3 percent decrease at the graduate level to give St. Thomas an overall increase this fall of 1 percent.

Total enrollment this fall is 10,712, up 71 from last year. Undergraduate enrollment is 5,807, an increase of 223. Graduate enrollment is 4,905, a decrease of 152. This marks the second-consecutive year of slight overall growth, after three years of slight declines. The university’s peak total enrollment of 11,570 was set in 2001.

St. Thomas’ official enrollment report, prepared by the Office of the University Registrar, can be found on the Web site of the Office of Institutional Research and Analysis (pdf file).

This year’s freshman class of 1,299 is the second-largest on record. Last year’s freshman class was 2 percent larger, at 1,325. Contributing to this year’s undergraduate record are 1,464 sophomores, 1,350 juniors and 1,477 seniors.

One reason for the size of the sophomore, junior and senior classes is the number of students who transfer to St. Thomas from other colleges. This year there are 298 “transfers,” and last year there were 300. Another reason is the university’s efforts to help students continue their studies until they graduate, which often is called the retention rate.

“We have in recent years put a greater emphasis on student retention, and this has paid off,” explained Dr. Thomas Rochon, executive vice president and chief academic officer. “We have redoubled our efforts to follow up promptly with individualized assistance when students appear at risk of having to leave the university. We also have improved our inter-office communication, so that we are able to deal more effectively with the ‘whole’ student.”

At a time when many colleges and universities are enrolling more women than men, St. Thomas has a remarkably balanced male-female ratio. At the undergraduate level, the ratio is 50-50; at the graduate level, 53 percent are women. Overall, women are ahead 51 percent to 49 percent.

And while St. Thomas has posted strong enrollment numbers in recent years, university officials are looking at what could be more challenging times in the coming years. Overall, it is predicted that the number of Midwest high school graduates will decrease between 2003 and 2013 by about 3 percent. Within that framework, however, there is a much larger decrease in the number of students who traditionally go to college, and a significant increase in the students who traditionally don’t go to college.

“This means that we must do our part to reach out to students while they are still in high school and help them visualize themselves as St. Thomas students,” Rochon said. “It is a matter of understanding why college is important, and that they can succeed in our academic environment.”

Improving access to the university is one of three priorities that were approved by the St. Thomas Board of Trustees last spring.

St. Thomas already is a much more diverse community than it once was, a trend that will continue as the university draws future students from a more diverse pool of high school graduates. There is an increase in the number of students of color this year, especially at the graduate level. At the undergraduate level, 11.2 percent are students of color compared to 10.4 percent last year. At the graduate level, 13.7 percent are students of color, up from 10.1 percent last year.

Attracting international students, another measure of a diverse campus, continues to be a challenge in the wake of the Sept. 11 tragedy. The numbers this year are about the same as last year. At the undergraduate level, 1 percent are international students, up from .8 percent last year. At the graduate level, 4.8 percent are international students, down from 4.9 percent in fall 2005. In the year 2000, 1.1 percent of undergraduates and 11 percent of graduate students were from other countries. In terms of numbers, St. Thomas enrolled 579 international students in 2000; this year the university enrolls 289 international students.

The percent of Catholic students is about the same as last year. Fifty-three percent of undergrads are Catholic; for graduate students, it’s 34 percent.

The 1,299 new freshmen come to St. Thomas from 374 high schools and 27 states, although a majority come from Minnesota and especially the Twin Cities suburbs. Ten percent come here with 4.0 (or better) high school grade-point averages. Their average grade-point average is 3.53 and their average ACT score is 24.7, which is close to last year on both counts. The freshman class includes 17 high school valedictorians and eight National Merit Scholars.

Here’s a look at the graduate enrollment for St. Thomas’ eight colleges and schools:

Graduate Enrollment by Program

Fall 2006

Change from 2005

College of Arts and Sciences



College of Business


- 6%

School of Divinity


- 22%

School of Education


- 1%

School of Engineering


- 5%

School of Law


+ 6%

School of Professional Psychology


-5 %

School of Social Work


+ 3%

Total graduate enrollment


- 3%

Within the College of Arts and Sciences: graduate Art History has 26 students, down 19 percent; graduate Catholic Studies has 47 students, up 52 percent; graduate English has 66 students, up 10 percent; and graduate Music Education has 22 students, down 4 percent.

Within the College of Business: the Full-Time MBA program has 80 students, up 21 percent; Evening MBA has 1,448 students, down 3 percent; Executive MBA has 83 s
tudents, down 20 percent; Medical Group Management has 49 students, down 6 percent; Accountancy has 12 students, down 25 percent; Master of Business Communication has 156 students, down 3 percent; International Management has 35 students, down 40 percent; Real Estate Appraisal has 11 students, down 39 percent; and Software Engineering, with 391 students, is down 8 percent.

Some recent and upcoming program changes have had an impact on graduate enrollment in the College of Business, which by far is the university’s largest college or school.

The Master of International Management program, for example, is being discontinued and no new students are being admitted. A new international track within the MBA program is being developed. Dr. Christopher Puto, dean of the College of Business, said the new track is in the review process and should be available next fall.

Another College of Business program with lower fall enrollment, the Executive MBA, recently has been revamped and now only admits new students in January. Applications point to a larger-than-normal enrollment next semester, Puto noted. The revamped program includes a 10-day overseas residency, with the first cohort visiting India next year.

The Evening MBA program, the largest within the College of Business, is down 3 percent this year, but the number of new students has increased 15 percent, from 157 last year to 181 this year. That also is the case with the Full-Time MBA program, which enrolls 80 students this fall. While enrollment in that program is up 21 percent, the number of new students is up 36 percent, from 33 last year to 45 this year.

Changes also are coming to the graduate software engineering program. Established in 1985, the program is now part of the College of Business. While overall enrollment is down 8 percent over last fall, it is higher than spring semester and the number of new students this fall is up 27 percent. Like changes coming to programs in international management, a new MBA track that incorporates technology and software courses is being developed and is expected to be available within a year.

Graduate software programs continue to draw the largest number of international students to the university. This fall, 98 international students are enrolled in the software courses, or about a third of all international students at St. Thomas.

“Moving the software programs into the College of Business has been helpful because of the college’s substantial expertise in reaching out to adult, part-time graduate students,” Rochon noted. “Employers in the region tell us there is a huge need for people who understand both information technology systems and core business principles. By having software in the College of Business, we are well-positioned to meet this need.”

Meanwhile, the College of Business saw a sharp increase in the number of undergraduate business majors this fall, from 2,075 last year to 2,287 this year. “That increase of about 20 percent is well above projections,” Puto said. “We think it is directly linked to the strong liberal arts education that our students receive in combination with their business major. It is a combination matched by few other business schools.”

The business students are taking many of their classes in the new McNeely Hall, a $25 million classroom and office building that will be dedicated Wednesday, Oct. 18.

Within the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity, the seminary and master of divinity programs, with 64 students, is up 7 percent; the master’s program in theology, with 15, is down 65 percent. The School of Divinity's overall numbers, and its master’s programs in theology and religious education in particular, show a decline because a cohort of religious education students that normally starts in the fall will now start in January. As a result, the fall enrollment count for that program shows a “zero” and that impacts the overall total.

Dr. Christopher Thompson, former director of the Master of Arts in Catholic Studies Program within the College of Arts and Sciences, became dean of the School of Divinity in July. “While the enrollment numbers at the School of Divinity would have been closer to last year if the religious education cohort had started this fall, the numbers underscore the importance of support for programs so closely linked to the university’s Catholic mission,” Thompson said.

Although it is not part of the School of Divinity, the undergraduate St. John Vianney Seminary, located on St. Thomas’ north campus in St. Paul, reports an enrollment this fall of 142 seminarians. That compares to 104 in 2005 and 84 in 2004.

Enrollment is relatively stable at the School of Education, School of Engineering, School of Law, Graduate School of Professional Psychology and School of Social Work.

While the School of Education is down 1 percent, Dr. Susan Huber, interim dean of the school, said five off-campus cohorts will begin graduate studies in October, with additional cohorts starting in November. The cohorts will bring fall enrollment to about the same level as last year.

The School of Social Work, a joint program with the College of St. Catherine, has a 3 percent increase this fall. The school, which is preparing for an upcoming move from Loras Hall to the Summit Avenue Classroom Building (the former McNeely Hall) has seen steady enrollment increases for the past 17 years.

The School of Law, which opened with 120 students in 2001, also has seen steady growth as it added additional classes. “Our enrollment of 439 this fall is just about the size we want to be,” said Thomas Mengler, dean. “Our original projection was to have a student body of about 450. In coming years, we plan to expand our pool of applicants with the goal of developing a national student body. We plan to continue to draw outstanding students from Minnesota and the region, but also to attract exceptional students from throughout the country.”

In other enrollment-related news, the university has set a record for the number of resident students. This year St. Thomas has 2,578 students living on its St. Paul campus. This compares to 2,516 last year and 2,080 the year before. The big increase a year ago was a result of the just-opened Selby Hall Residence.

Enrollment on the university’s St. Paul campus is 7,036, up slightly from last year’s 6,945. St. Thomas is limited to 8,750 students on its main campus under a revised Conditional Use Permit that was approved by the city of St. Paul in 2004. The highest enrollment in St. Paul was 8,712 in 1991, the year before the university opened its Minneapolis campus. Enrollment at the Minneapolis campus this fall is 3,134, down slightly from last year’s 3,229.

The university now has 142 students who attend classes primarily using the World Wide Web. That’s nearly double last year’s 75 and compares to 39 in 2004, 42 in 2003, 83 in 2002, 72 in 2001 and 64 in 2000.