Strategic admissions recruiting and retention efforts are paying off for The University of Texas at Austin, according to preliminary enrollment numbers for fall 2013.
The university is experiencing a surge in its share of returning students this fall a 93.6 percent one-year retention rate this year compared with 93.2 percent in fall 2012. This is the highest retention rate in the university's history and signals that the university's focus on improving four-year graduation rates is having the desired effect.
A total of 7,252 freshmen enrolled this year a return to its traditional freshman enrollment target after a record year in 2012 with 8,092 students. However, with more students returning than in previous years, the university's total enrollment will remain relatively flat at 52,076.
"The key to moving the needle on four-year graduation rates is implementing student success strategies that start in those first few years on campus," said David Laude, senior vice provost for enrollment and graduation management. "If key early milestones aren't met, then timely graduation is not a realistic possibility. These steadily increasing retention rates show that more of our students are staying on track."
The four-year graduation rate for the class entering in fall 2009 is 52 percent relatively flat from previous cohorts, but the retention numbers suggest that there will be substantial increases in future years. The six-year rate for the class that entered in 2007 is 79.4 percent, an increase from 78.7 over the previous year.
The preliminary figures are based on the enrollment on the 12th day of class and are subject to change. Final figures will be released in October, said Kristi D. Fisher, associate vice provost and director of the Office of Information Management and Analysis.
The university's recruiting efforts for this class have focused on increasing yield rates for its top automatically admitted students, who typically have multiple offers from top universities around the country. This year, of the enrolled freshmen from Texas high schools who were offered full-time admission, 77 percent were automatically admitted, compared with 74 percent last year.
This year's freshman class also has a higher preliminary average SAT score than previous classes of 1859, a 17-point jump from last fall's preliminary score. This increase is reflected across nearly every ethnic group, as well as for the automatically admitted students from Texas high schools.
"The Class of 2017 is one of the best prepared classes we've ever had," Laude said. "And we've taken additional steps this year to support our student success efforts providing financial aid incentives to students who make steady progress, subsidizing classes for first-year students who needed additional preparation, connecting every freshman with small peer-groups to help them integrate into this large university. We are going to be seeing results from these programs for years to come."
This year, the university has committed $4.5 million in additional support for student success programs, much of it targeting students who are eligible for income-based financial aid. The first-year numbers also include 92 students who are co-enrolled at The University of Texas at Austin and Austin Community College, under a new program called Path to Admission through Co-Enrollment (PACE).
Other key trends in the report include:
- The share of underrepresented minorities on campus increased slightly. Hispanics account for 19.1 percent of students, up from 18.4 percent last fall. Black student enrollment remained flat at 4.5 percent. The percentage of enrolled students who are Asian increased to 15.4 percent, up from 15.2 percent. White student enrollment was 48.4 percent (excluding international students), down from 49.8 percent .
- For first-time freshmen, Asian student enrollment experienced the largest change in proportional representation from last fall, 20.1 percent, up from 18.4 percent. For students identifying as White Only, their proportional representation is 45.6 percent, a slight increase from 45.5 percent in fall 2012. White student enrollment for first-time freshmen was 45.6 percent (excluding international students), an increase from 45.5 percent from fall 2012.
- The proportional representation of transfers increased for students identifying as Hispanic, Black Only, Two or More (neither Hispanic nor Black), and for foreign students. Hispanic students' representation is 20.9 percent, an increase from 19.3 percent over last fall and the largest increase of all the ethnic/racial groups.
- Of the first-time freshmen from Texas high schools who were offered full-time admission, 80 percent were automatically admitted under SB 175 (the modified Top 10 Percent law); of all enrolled freshmen from Texas high schools who were offered full-time admission, 77 percent were admitted under SB 175.
- The average composite ACT score for the entering freshmen was 28, and the average SAT composite score was 1859.
- Despite the decrease in the overall freshman enrollment over last year, the McCombs School of Business and the College of Communication admitted significantly larger classes than in previous years. And the Cockrell School of Engineering's freshman class of 1,161 students is 29.2 percent female a record for the school.
There are 39,995 undergraduates, 10,995 graduate students and 1,086 law students enrolled.
 The university changed its method of reporting race and ethnicity with the 2010 reporting cycle to conform to the format adopted by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
Reporting changes include the introduction of two new race-reporting categories, "Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander" and "Two or More." Students identifying themselves in more than one category with one being Hispanic are reported in the "Hispanic" category only, in accordance with federal guidelines.
Students identifying themselves as black, or in more than one category with one being black (and not Hispanic), are reported in the "total black" category. All other students identifying themselves in more than one category (neither Hispanic nor black) are reported in the "Two or More" category.