A byproduct of many positive factors converging to create a quality and affordable educational experience for students, the University of Central Missouri is experiencing the largest enrollment increase in its 144-year history. UCM this week announced a record 14,395 students enrolled for the fall 2015 semester, a 7.6 percent increase over last fall, and a 23.7 percent increase over a five-year period.

Enrollment data was provided through the fall census conducted Sept. 14 by the university’s Office of Institutional Research. This is the fifth consecutive record-setting year, topping the fall 2014 record of 13,379 students by a 1,016 headcount. Since fall 2011, total headcount has increased by from 11,637 to 14,395 students.

“These numbers are clearly a reflection of a campus-wide commitment by our faculty and staff to provide the kind educational environment that not only attracts students, but is dedicated to their success,” said Charles Ambrose, UCM president, who also included brief enrollment statistics in his State of the University Address Sept. 17.  “Every employee on this campus can take credit for leadership and contributions that are allowing UCM to grow. This means helping students graduate on time, reducing their college debt, and ensuring they have the tools and opportunities they need to succeed in education and in life. That’s what learning to a greater degree is all about.”

With 10,001 total undergraduate students, the university increased its undergraduate enrollment this fall by 1.7 percent, up from 9,838 students in fall 2014. UCM’s overall graduate enrollment climbed from 3,541 last year to the current 4,394 students, up 24.1 percent. The university’s strongest gain, however, was in international enrollment, which climbed 46.7 percent, from 1,899 students in fall 2014 to 2,786 this fall.

Mike Godard, vice provost for enrollment management, said the increase in international students is largely due to strong interest in STEM-related fields. Computer science, computer information systems, and industrial management are programs that have interested both domestic and international students. He noted that the colleges and departments that offer these programs have worked hard to accommodate growth.

“Our deans and department chairs anticipated the potential increase in enrollment for these programs. They have been very proactive in making sure they have appropriate faculty and staff to accommodate students,” Godard said.

Five-year data show significant gains not only in international student numbers, but among graduate students and undergraduates, as well as credit hour production, which has a financial impact on the institution. Here are some examples:

  • Total credit hours increased by 21,522 (15.9% increase) - 135,495 to 157,017
  • Total undergraduate-only headcount increased by 535 students (5.7% increase) - 9,466 to 10,001
  • Total graduate-only headcount increased by 2,223 students (102.4% increase) - 2,171 to 4,394
  • International Students (undergrad and grad combined) increased by 2,228 students (399.3% increase) - 558 to 2,786

Godard noted that retention has an impact on helping students to graduate in four years, and contributes to strong enrollment. The university is experiencing a 1.1 increase in retention from fall 2014 for first-time freshmen, and a 1.7 percent increase in the second-year retention rate. Such increases are attributed to positive steps UCM continues to take to help students succeed.

“One thing we’ve invested in as a university is predictive analytics,” Godard said.  He added that the university three years ago began implementing analytical tools made possible through a partnership with the Educational Advisory Board Student Success Collaboration. This helps the university to better understand historical trends of past students over time. It can help predict student success in certain areas, and identify risks that may pose challenges for a student academically.

“We’ve also incorporated through our advising centers across campus targeted advising campaigns,” Godard said. “Looking at a population of our students from our predictive analytics, we really need to make sure we are intrusive with our advising to make students stay on the path for success.”

Other statistics demonstrate progress in areas that are contributing to more students who are making UCM their choice for a higher education. This includes reducing debt through timely graduation, student employment opportunities, and less dependence on borrowing. In addition to average student credit hours climbing to 14.95 per semester, which will help ensure graduation in four years, UCM has experienced a $5.56 million decline or
8.5 percent drop from $65.3 million last year in federal Stafford and Plus Loans. As of August 2015, the university also processed the hiring of 1,234 students for this year, a net increase of 349 jobs over the past three years. At least 134 new employment opportunities were created by The Crossing – South at Holden, a new mixed-use student housing and retail facility, which is contributing to a higher quality learning and living environment on campus.

Among factors, which are interconnected with the overall enrollment increase, is the largest first-time, full-time freshman enrollment since 2008 in The Honors College. With an incoming class of 155 new students, there is a 24 percent increase over last year’s freshman enrollment of 125 students.

“The end game is to make sure our students complete their degrees at UCM. We’ve seen an increase in the number of students enrolling, but we’re also seeing an increase in the number of students who graduate, as well,” Godard said.

He pointed out that a total of 3,511 academic degrees were awarded in 2014-2015, up 22 percent from 2,741 the previous year. Total degrees awarded since the 2010-2011 academic year increased by 1,139 or 48 percent, from 2,372 to 3,511.

(Courtesy of UCM)