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Increasing Enrollment Changes Face of Students

New River Hawks More Diverse, Better Academically

UMass Lowell Civil Engineering Students by Meghan Moore
UMass Lowell students are higher-achieving and more diverse than ever before. Photo by Meghan Moore

By Julia Gavin

As the University expands its campus and programs, enrollment has increased in every department with high-caliber, diverse students choosing UMass Lowell.

Overall enrollments are increasing by more than 10 percent annually for each of the last four years due to improved retention rates and an increased number of applicants. The University campus has more than 16,000 students, including undergraduate, graduate and continuing studies levels. The goal is to continue to increase overall enrollments of undergraduates and master’s and professional master’s students in areas of demand.

The average combined SAT score of incoming freshmen has risen more than 50 points since 2006, and the average incoming high school GPA has climbed to more than 3.27. The increasing academic achievement of incoming students is being felt on campus where professors are glad to challenge their pupils with new classes and more hands-on experiences.

"What we seek are academically strong students who can be successful at the University," says Dean of Engineering John Ting who will become the Vice Provost for Enrollment in October. "Having academically strong incoming students presents many advantages as they may be more able to handle both the academics and contribute to extra-curricular activities and projects that benefit the University campus life as a whole."  

Freshman enrollments are up more than 15 percent from 1,243 in 2007 to 1,431 in 2011. Transfer enrollment is up 47 percent from 716 in 2007 to 1,056 in 2011 due in part to a streamlined transfer process between the University and community colleges, especially Middlesex Community College. Graduate program enrollments have also grown from 515 in 2007 to 956 in 2011, an 85 percent increase. Preliminary numbers for the 2012-2013 academic year have seen all measurements continue to rise.

The University is also attracting more diverse students representing different locations and backgrounds. The campus has seen an overall increase in minority student enrollment of 90 percent in the last five years with freshman numbers increasing by 52 percent, transfers students by 108 percent and graduate students by 190 percent. 

While in-state students are still the majority on campus, out-of-state enrollments are increasing regional and national connections. In-state enrollments are up 9 percent since 2007 while out-of-state enrollments have doubled in the same time. The University has also increased its international reach, with more than 100 new international students attending this year. Students hailing from 53 countries now attend the school.

“We’re in the perfect storm right now to attract students from other states with campus improvements, our experiential learning opportunities, co-op programs and an increased travel area for our admissions counselors,” says Kerri Johnston, director of undergraduate admissions, who has admissions representatives traveling throughout the region and country recruiting new students.

While the admissions staff is working to bring in new students from the region and beyond – they now travel to New Jersey, New York and California to name a few new areas – Johnston credits students and alumni as the University’s biggest promoters as they “get out there and spread the word about UMass Lowell.”

Ting agrees that students can be the University's best ambassadors.

"Erin Webster, a computer engineering senior, was valedictorian of her high school in Littleton and had many excellent options for schools and chose us," says Ting. "During her freshman year, she volunteered to run our high school Assistive Technology Design Fair for area high school students and teachers and we have since sent her to India each summer and once to Turkey to participate in international collaborations and conferences."  

"This has been a total team effort - led at the top by Chancellor Meehan's ubiquitous presence in helping market the University, the Public Affairs Office in developing new marketing strategies and materials, the Provost and his office for leading student success initiatives, the Admissions and Financial Aid offices in executing new recruiting and enrollment strategies, and especially the faculty and staff in each College in developing and delivering relevant programs that students and employers seek."