UH is experiencing the highest enrollment in its nine-decade history. The preliminary 12th day of class headcount is 42,738— an increase of almost 2,000 students over last fall. This is the second consecutive year UH is expected to set an enrollment record. Just as noteworthy, University officials say, is the number of undergraduate students who are returning to campus, which is up about 5 percent over last year.
“This is our strongest freshman class in regard to enrollment and SAT scores,” said Richard Walker, UH vice president for student affairs and enrollment services. “We are equally excited that more undergraduates are returning semester-to-semester. All of these factors contribute to more students graduating. We are happy to welcome students each fall, and our mission is to educate them and make sure they earn their degrees. These enrollment figures are a strong indication that our graduation rates will continue to rise.”
The total number of new freshman, or first-time-in-college students, is 4,189, a 3.3 percent increase from the class of 4,056 freshmen who enrolled last fall. During a time when national SAT scores are declining, the average SAT score of the incoming class is 1150, which is up 35 points from five years ago. There has also been a dramatic increase in the number of students receiving university merit scholarships in recent years. In fall 2015, more than half of UH’s freshman class (52 percent) received a merit-based scholarship from UH. This is up from 27 percent two years ago.
In its commitment to student success and improving graduation rates, UH launched the UHin4 initiative last fall. UHin4 is a comprehensive plan that helps students identify and pursue a clear path for graduating in a timely manner. In evaluating UHin4’s progress after its first year, UH officials say students who are enrolled in the program have attempted and completed more semester credit hours and earned higher GPAs than those not in the program.
“UHin4 is proving to be successful for our students, and we are seeing a growing interest from students who want to participate,” said Paula Myrick Short, senior vice chancellor/senior vice president for academic affairs and provost for UH. “In 2015, we’ve had an additional 800 incoming students request to participate over the number of requests we received last fall. We expect participation rates to be higher once all of the requests have been processed.”
In addition to the freshman class, UH welcomed 5,166 transfer students this fall, up 3.2 percent from last year. The number of new graduate students increased slightly to 1,815 (compared to 1,779 in 2014). UH continues to grow its overall enrollment while still maintaining the cultural and ethnic diversity of the student body. UH has consistently been recognized as one of the most diverse public research universities in the nation. Based on data available from the 12th day of classes, ethnic diversity in the UH freshman cohort grew with increases seen in Hispanic, Asian-American, Native American and African-American students. Final enrollment numbers are being certified by the institution and will be available later this fall.
What fields are drawing students to UH? Of the 13 colleges within the institution, the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS) is the largest, followed by the Bauer College of Business. But overall, the science, technology, engineering and math fields, collectively known as the STEM programs, are drawing more and more graduate and undergraduate students to UH. Specifically, UH is seeing growth this fall in chemistry, computer science, engineering (all majors) and technology (all majors). A growth in the STEM fields is part of an overall strategy to grow the University’s programming in energy and health. The UH Energy and UH Health initiatives were established by UH President Renu Khator as important areas of concentration that will contribute to the cornerstones of the Houston economy while helping the University to become nationally competitive.
“We have so much to celebrate this fall,” said Khator, “including a record number of new Cougars on campus. Overall, we are seeing clear indications that our efforts to encourage academic progress and improved graduation rates are definitely paying off. At UH, we are educating more students and more effectively than ever before.”