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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    More to success than freshman enrollment numbers

    Not unexpectedly, the UA is “setting records for freshman enrollment, academic preparedness and ethnic diversity.”

    This isn’t unexpected because it seems to happen every year. The Office of University Communications rewrites a UANews article about higher freshman enrollment every fall semester. If it wanted to save itself some time, it could probably keep a template of the same article to pull out every August.

    This year, the UA admitted 7,450 freshmen — up from 7,300 last year and 7,025 the year before that.

    “We are thrilled to welcome the largest freshman class to date,” President Ann Weaver Hart said in the UANews article. “This year’s freshmen are more prepared than ever to take on the academic rigors of the university. We look forward to their many successes here.”

    Yep. The template is easy to follow: “Look how big the numbers are. [Insert canned quote by current UA president about growth and academic success.] These Wildcats made the right choice.”

    True enough. In a post-recession economy, with families questioning the costs and benefits of higher education, college is clearly, definitely worth it.

    A recent study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce examined the effects of the recession and recovery by education level, gender, industry and occupation, and concludes that it may be a tough job market for college graduates, but is much worse for those with less than a postsecondary education.

    Most jobs lost during and after the recession were held by workers with no education beyond high school, the report found. Gains made during the recovery were by workers with at least some post-secondary schooling.

    “For workers, the findings point the way to acquiring the skills that the market needs and values,” the report concludes. “For students and their parents who are contemplating whether higher education is a good value, these findings make clear that the answer is a resounding yes.”

    Cool. So newly enrolled students at the UA are on the right track. That said, with higher enrollment numbers come higher expectations.

    The freshmen have a “strong academic background,” UANews reports. The average GPA is 3.44, up from last year’s 3.41. The average SAT score in math and critical reading is 1117, up from 1109. More students are enrolling in science, technology, engineering and math fields. More than 39 percent of this year’s freshman class identify as an ethnic minority.

    While the UA is typically eager to brag about greater enrollment, increased diversity of admitted freshmen and better grade point averages or SAT scores, it’s important to look forward to what to do with those numbers.

    What will retention rates look like after this year, when these new freshmen are statistically most likely to drop out? What percentage of them will graduate with a degree, and how many years will it take them to do so? What percentage of those graduates with degrees will identify as minorities?

    Although a larger, more diverse and academically successful freshman class is a solid start, the UA sings that song every August. It’s time to change the tune.

    — Editorials are determined by the Daily Wildcat editorial board and written by one of its members. They are Bethany Barnes, Kristina Bui, Jason Krell, K.C. Libman and Alex Williams. They can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @DailyWildcat.

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