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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Largest freshman class sees improvements in several academic areas

Ernie Somoza
Ernie Somoza/ Arizona Daily Wildcat New Student convocation was held at the University of Arizona’s McKale Memorial Center. University faculty and President Ann Weaver Hart welcomed students before their first day of class.

As the largest freshman class in UA history, the class of 2016 is showing improvements in certain academic areas over classes of past years.

In a media advisory in Bear Down Gymnasium on Friday morning, Vice President for Student Affairs Melissa Vito and Kasey Urquidez, the associate vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management and dean of undergraduate admissions, discussed the UA’s largest-ever freshman class, focusing mainly on academic preparedness and ethnic diversity.

The latest class to be admitted, which adds approximately 7,450 to a total campus enrollment of about 40,000, surpassed fall 2011’s freshman class by about 150 students. The new class’s grade point average saw a slight increase from 3.41 in 2011 to 3.44, as well as an increase in its average math and critical reading scores on SATs.

“To be able to grow in numbers and also to grow in quality really reflects the amazing work of the whole team in Enrollment Management,” Vito said.

Additionally, certain colleges saw increases in enrollment with the new class, specifically in the Colleges of Engineering, Medicine, Science and Agriculture and Life Sciences. Despite the growth in these areas, Vito said there wasn’t any concern about enrollment in arts and humanities departments.

“We’ve got a big class, and we’ve still got a lot of students who are choosing a more liberal arts area,” she said. “The College of Letters, Arts and Sciences still tends to be our largest area for our incoming students. We want our students to be well-rounded, so our STEM students still … take some humanities courses and have an experience that goes beyond just engineering or just a major.”

The class also saw a growth in ethnic diversity, with 25 percent more Latino students enrolling over the last two years, as well as an increased number of international students, the majority of which are from China.

“That is really significant and important to us, as well,” Urquidez said, “as our students get to interact and learn from one another.”

Urquidez added that many international students are already proficient in English upon enrollment, but that the UA’s Center for English as a Second Language has served as a “pipeline,” allowing international students to start classes with a good understanding of the language beforehand.

Given the growth in freshman enrollment, initiatives have also been put in place to try to keep students working within Arizona after they graduate, according to Eileen McGarry, the director of Career Services. McGarry added her department does regular outreach to nearly 120 Arizona companies, and that 60 percent of all recruits looking for potential employees from the UA are from companies within the state. She added that these initiatives play a big part in maintaining a stable economy.

“When you have an educated workforce in a state, it elevates that state, its economic viability, everything,” McGarry said. “If people are investing in education, they want to see the outcome stay so that the economy is vibrant.”

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