Record-size freshman class helps boost overall enrollment by 2 percent

Record-size freshman class helps boost overall enrollment by 2 percent

The largest freshman class in its history helped give the University of St. Thomas its highest undergraduate enrollment on record. And although not a record, the combined graduate and undergraduate enrollment here is up 2 percent this year.

A slight drop in graduate enrollment in five of the university’s nine divisions led to an overall graduate enrollment decrease of 2 percent from last year. However, the number of graduate-level credit hours, which represents the number of classes that students are taking, is unchanged from last fall.

Total enrollment at St. Thomas today is 10,641, which is 2 percent higher than last fall’s 10,474. The overall number of credit hours, a number important to those who must balance the university’s checkbook, is up 5 percent this fall over last.

This year’s 2 percent enrollment increase reverses three consecutive years of slight declines. The university’s peak total enrollment of 11,570 was set in 2001. This year’s total enrollment is 167 higher than last year and 829 below the 2001 record.

One of the most significant numbers is the record freshman class of 1,325, which is up 166 students, or more than 14 percent, over last year’s then-record-high class of 1,159. St. Thomas also saw a 13 percent increase in undergraduate transfer students: 300 this year compared to 265 last year. There was a 13 percent decrease, meanwhile, in the number of undergraduate evening students: 236 this year compared to 272 last year.

Based on test scores and other criteria, the undergraduate class of 2009 comes with some excellent academic credentials. The number of students with a 4.0 (or higher) high school average is 178, compared to 137 last year, 141 in 2003 and 134 in 2002. The average ACT score of 25 is unchanged from the last two years.

The average high school grade-point average of 3.57 is almost the same at last year’s 3.59 and 2003’s 3.55. Twenty-nine members of the freshman class were valedictorians at their high schools, down one from last year. Fifty-three percent of the freshmen are women, which is 1 percent higher than fall 2004, but the same as 2000 through 2003. Eleven percent are students of color, down 1 percent from 2004 but still an increase over the 7 percent in 2003. The freshmen come from 396 high schools (52 more than last year) and 29 states.

Reasons for the larger freshman class include a larger number of highly qualified applicants, and more flexibility in campus housing because of the just-opened Selby Hall residence.

“We don’t expect this level of growth in the freshman class to continue,” said Dr. Thomas Rochon, executive vice president and chief academic officer. “Our target for next year’s freshman class is smaller than the size of this year’s class.

“At the undergraduate level we are now at a size we are comfortable with,” he added. “We are large enough to have the resources to offer a broad range of programs, and small enough to provide personal attention to our students. If we grew larger, we’d risk becoming another kind of institution.

“Overall, we are delighted with the enrollment numbers this year. Within our broad profile of programs, we have some increases and some decreases, but when you get to the bottom line, we have had a very successful year, and we feel good about the range of students that the university is serving this year.”

One program at the graduate level that will see some changes is Graduate Programs in Software Engineering, which saw an 18 percent drop in enrollment last year and a 21 percent drop this fall.

Part of that decline is due to a post-Sept. 11 reduction in international students, and part of it is due, Rochon explained, “to a new paradigm emerging in the field of information technology.

“Until recently, educational programs in this complex and changing field were primarily targeted at the technical side of software engineering,” he said. “Now, employers are outsourcing much of that work to other companies, and to other countries. Companies are now looking for employees who have a technical software background, but who also understand how business works.

“We have a case in which one market is shrinking and the other is growing. We are developing programs that will respond to this need by better integrating coursework in business management and software engineering.”

Another development at the graduate level is the use of financial aid to help students in education and social work pursue their degrees. “While a number of our graduate business students receive various forms of assistance from their employers, this is generally not the case with students in education and social work. We are effectively using modest financial-aid resources both to attract education and social work students and to diversify our student body. We will seek to expand those resources in the future,” Rochon said.

The College of Business, which had seen enrollment declines in recent years, this year saw increases in all but one of its existing seven programs. The only decline was seen in its Master of International Management Program, which is being phased out. Existing MIM students are being allowed to complete the program, but new students are not being enrolled. An eighth College of Business program, in accounting, is new this year.

Despite the drop in MIM enrollment, the College of Business’ overall number of credit hours is up slightly.

There are several reasons for this, explained Dr. Chris Puto, dean of the College of Business. One is that the college now has a seven-year limit on the time students are allowed to complete a master’s degree. “We feel that it is beneficial for students to complete their degrees more quickly. Also, we have made some adjustments that allow some part-time students to take two courses per semester, and these courses are designed to complement each other.”

A third reason has been the growing number of full-time students at the College of Business, including its Full-Time MBA, Medical Group Management, and Accountancy programs.

Puto noted there also has been a steady increase in the number of new, evening MBA students. Two years ago the college enrolled about 50 of these new part-time students. Last year, that number increased to 100, and this fall it’s about 150.

He added that the College of Business is developing a successor to the MIM program that would be launched within the next 18 months.

Here’s a look at the university’s graduate enrollment numbers by division.

Overall the graduate programs of the College of Arts and Sciences, with 146 students this year, saw a 10 percent increase. By department, Art History, with 32 students, is down 3 percent; Catholic Studies, with 31 students, is up 11 percent; English, with 60 students, is down 6 percent; and Music Education, with 23 students, is up 188 percent.

Overall the graduate programs of the College of Business, with 1,984 students, are down 2 percent. B
y department, the UST MBA (full-time day program), with 66 students, is up 3 percent; the Evening MBA, with 1,496, is up 4 percent; the Executive MBA, with 104, is up 1 percent; Medical Group Management, with 52, is up 63 percent; Accountancy, with 16, is new this year; Master of Business Communication, with 161, is up 4 percent; Master of International Management, with 58, is down 40 percent; and Real Estate Appraisal, with 18, is up 38 percent.

Graduate Programs in Software Engineering, with 425 students, is down 21 percent from last year.

The St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity, with 110 students, is down 10 percent. By program, the seminary and Master of Divinity programs, with 60, are down 8 percent; the master’s programs in pastoral studies, religious education and theology, with 43, are up 2 percent. While 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 104 seminarians. That compares to 84 a year ago.

The School of Education, with 1,240 students, is down 2 percent. It should be noted that enrollment numbers for this school can fluctuate depending on when some graduate-level cohorts begin classes. While the official fall enrollment numbers show a small decline this year over last, university officials say that the actual School of Education enrollment will be about the same this year as last.

The School of Engineering, with 232 graduate students, is down 2 percent this year. (At the bachelor’s level, the school has 67 electrical engineering and 159 mechanical engineering students, both up slightly over last year.)

The School of Law has 413 students, a 13 percent increase over last year. Credit hours at the School of Law are up by 15 percent.

The Graduate School of Professional Psychology has about the same number of students, 203 this year, but credit hours are up 5 percent.

The School of Social Work has shown enrollment gains in recent years, and this year was no exception. The school has 304 students, a 5 percent increase.

In other enrollment-related news, the university has set a record for the number of resident students. This year St. Thomas has 2,516 students living on its St. Paul campus. This compares to 2,080 residents last year. The increase was possible due to the just-opened Selby Hall residence, which has room for 418 students. There are no more rooms on the St. Paul campus for women residents this fall, although there are a few spaces available for men.

At the undergraduate level, 50 percent of St. Thomas students are women; the percentage ranges from 52 percent of freshmen to 48 percent of seniors. At the graduate level, 52 percent are women. Overall, 51 percent of St. Thomas students are women.

Enrollment on the university’s St. Paul campus is 6,945, which is 120 more than last year but well below the 8,750-student cap that is stipulated in a Conditional Use Permit that was approved by the city of St. Paul in August 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 3,229, an increase of 95.

Here’s the enrollment this year (and last year) at other St. Thomas sites: Chaska, 75 (last year 108); Owatonna, 73 (last year 56); Anoka, 65 (last year 89); Mall of America, 250 (last year 289); Rochester, 28 (last year 41); East St. Paul-Woodbury, 20 (last year 44); and West Law in Eagan, 29 (last year 39).

The university has 75 students who attend classes primarily using the World Wide Web. This compares to 39 in 2004, 42 in 2003, 83 in 2002, 72 in 2001 and 64 in 2000.