Larger, smarter incoming freshman class leads to spike in undergraduate enrollment

Bob Bliss, dean of the Pierre Laclede Honors College at UMSL

(Photo by August Jennewein)

More new undergraduate students enrolled at the University of Missouri–St. Louis in August than any fall semester since 1999, despite a decline in Missouri high school graduates. The 2,519 new students comprise the second largest transfer class (1,972 students) in UMSL’s history and an incoming freshmen class that set a record average ACT score of 24.

The Pierre Laclede Honors College also set a new record at 573 enrolled students. This year, the college’s 116 new freshman (up from 79 in 2009) averaged 28 on the ACT exam.

Bob Bliss (pictured), dean of the honors college, attributes the increased interest to word of mouth, new endowed scholarships and admissions work by the college’s faculty and staff. He says classes are jam-packed for a college that works to maintain a 15:1 student-to-faculty-member ratio. But that hasn’t stopped the honors college from recruiting a few more exceptional students.

“I talked to a prospective student in the lunchroom today, and I think we might get him,” Bliss says, smiling.

Overall, on-campus undergraduate enrollment of 9,285 students at UMSL is about the same as last year. Graduate and professional programs, however, are down more than 7 percent from last year after being up every year since the start of the recession in 2008. Demand for graduate and professional degrees tends to drop off as the economy and job market recovers from recessions.

Because of the increase in undergraduate students and decrease in graduate students, the university experienced little fluctuation in year-over-year enrollment numbers. UMSL’s total on- and off-campus enrollment for the fall semester was 16,719 students.

This story was originally published in the fall 2012 issue of UMSL Magazine.


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