Strong 2021-2022 enrollment numbers: UD is here to stay

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As the fateful national college deposit deadline approaches, the University of Dallas stands out for its highest enrollment since the fall of 2017. 

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the rate of high school students immediately matriculating at U.S. universities in 2020 decreased 6.8% ― four times higher than the previous year’s decrease. 

UD’s Assistant Vice President of Enrollment, Elizabeth GriffinSmith,said that, as of April 26, current deposits for undergraduates sat at 333 this year, compared with 220 in 2020 and 257 in 2019. With the possibility of even more depositing students over the summer, UD is set on a trajectory of growth.  

“We are up pretty significantly even compared to a more ’normal,’ non-Covid year. If things continue on the same trend, this should be our largest freshman class ever,” Griffin-Smith said. 

Commenting on UD’s success in keeping campus open for the past two semesters, President Jonathan Sanford said that he is “incredibly proud of the way in which everyone has worked so hard to prioritize the in-person experience.” 

A survey conducted by Brookings, a non-profit public policy organization, found that changes in class format factored into the decision not to return to college for 55% of students in fall 2020. At UD,  the access to primarily in-person education drew in some students. 

Freshman psychology major Josie Glenn was one such student. “I chose to come to UD during COVID despite the precautions for a lot of reasons, but the biggest one was that the campus was open for in-person classes,” Glenn said. “I think the college experience cannot be had to the fullest online.”

October 2020 data collected by the Pew Research Center has shown that 50% of U.S. adults believe that reviving on campus learning was the right decision; only 30% believe online learning is equally as valuable as on-ground education. 

Sanford described some of the challenges that UD has willingly accepted to continue fostering the community life so integral to its identity. 

“I’ve been reflecting on some of the ways in which this year will mark forever―whatever stage of college life you’re in―the student experience,” Sanford said. “It would have been safer in some ways, and less trouble to say that we’re just going to be online. And instead we―both on the faculty and administrative level, as well as the students―we’ve really worked hard to do this.”

Although The University News could not directly contact deposited students due to the confidentiality of admissions data, incoming provost Dr. Tammy Leonard shared her insights into the growing UD family. 

“Enrollment growth means more minds, gifts, and talents coming to UD,” Leonard said. “UD is a place where we seek good in our world and in the people around us. This compels us to manage growth so that we may continue to rejoice in the beauty that new students bring to our campus community.”

Regarding the impact of increasing student enrollment with COVID-19 restrictions still a potential possibility, Griffin-Smith was positive. 

“I foresee UD having enough space to accommodate all of the students committing to attend in the fall, though it may take some creative flexibility on the part of Student Affairs,” she said.

While UD potentially will bring in a record-breaking number of new students, admissions officials are considering the long-term issues of growth as well. 

“It remains to be seen how sustained enrollment increases might impact the physical plant of the university in terms of additional buildings, expanded capacity in certain buildings, etc. Hopefully this year sets a precedent for future enrollment successes,” she said. 

In the COVID-19 era of unknowns, what-ifs and maybes, UD has served as a haven for college students to weather the storm. As travel, community living, social distancing and masking are lifted, it remains to be seen how colleges across the country will fare. For now, though, one thing is certain: the University of Dallas is here to stay.

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