UAB sets enrollment record for fifth successive year — ‘A world-class education’
The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) announced on Wednesday that it has set an enrollment record for the fifth consecutive year.
UAB, which is part of the University of Alabama System, has also reached a new milestone in retention rates for freshmen, with 86.4% of first-time, full-time students returning this fall, a 3.3% jump from last year.
UAB’s Office of Enrollment Management reported 22,563 total students being enrolled for the fall 2020 semester, representing 2% growth from 2019.
Notably, the number of graduate students increased by 6%, now standing at 7,512 students. In-state and out-of-state enrollment also saw year-over-year increases, as did the professional student population.
This semester, more freshmen are living on campus than ever, with 72% of the 2020 freshman class doing so. This highlights the importance of several projects on campus, including Green Hall, which is slated to open next spring.
Impressively, the landmark numbers came amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“All universities across the country are facing an uncertain time during the COVID-19 pandemic. UAB has been a leader in providing guidance, resources and support to ensure the safety of our students and communities during this time,” stated Bradley Barnes, Ph.D., vice provost for Enrollment Management. “These efforts have increased the overall attractiveness of UAB and its curriculum, culture and opportunities provided to students. Potential students and their families see this. They see the growth and impact of our institution on all levels, and they want to be a part of it.”
UAB’s freshman class features 82.2% Alabamians. Overall, in-state students represent 87.7% of the university’s undergraduate student population.
It should be noted that the academic quality of the latest UAB freshman class is the institution’s strongest to date. The average freshman ACT score rose from 25.6 in fall 2019 to 25.9, and the average GPA increased from 3.78 to 3.83.
The Birmingham university continues to be one of the most diverse institutions in the country as well, with 42.5% of the student body representing minority populations. Additionally, 2,932 UAB undergraduate students have self-identified as first-generation college students — an increase of 3.4% from 2019.
UAB President Ray L. Watts said in a statement, “Our talented, diverse and deserving students have remained resilient during a time of many unknowns and constant change. We strive to provide accessible educational opportunity, unrivaled research experiences and academic programs that equip them for successful 21st century careers, all while protecting our students’ health and safety.”
“Whether students are on-campus or attending classes virtually, it is important that we provide resources to help them be successful in and out of the classroom,” he added. “Our faculty and staff are effectively mentoring and inspiring our students, united behind collaboration, innovation, diversity and all of our shared values. We will continue to forge ahead in all areas of our mission.”
The historic enrollment comes as UAB continues to shatter records for achievement and research. These include the following:
- The first in the United States for community outreach efforts around health and well-being, and No. 7 globally, in the recent Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2020.
- $600 million in research funding, an institutional milestone for UAB — with an extraordinary increase of $75 million in funding over one year.
- Funding from the Department of Defense to UAB also saw a dramatic increase, climbing by more than $7 million, or 63%.
- Designation as an Innovation and Economic Prosperity University by the Association of Public Land-grant Universities.
- $2.2 million investment in libraries over the last seven years to merge the existing campus libraries into a single unit, acquire new software, enhance facilities and hire more student-workers, all while remaining user-focused.
- A growing athletics program, competing at the highest level of Conference-USA across multiple sports.
UAB Senior Vice President and Provost Pam Benoit advised that the continued growth across the UAB enterprise is a positive reflection on many groups, including recent students and current faculty.
“Our students are learning in different ways this year. We are proud of their ability to adjust as the pandemic evolves and to be successful in their academics,” she said. “Our faculty has made many adjustments to provide a quality educational experience for our students. They have proved to be resilient and flexible in providing a world-class education to our students.”
The enrollment milestones also came as the University of Alabama System has instituted a tuition freeze for in-state residents for the second straight year.
The University of Alabama and the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) also announced their fall 2020 enrollment numbers in recent days; combined, enrollment at all three distinct institutions broke the all-time System-wide enrollment record.
White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx on Friday praised the System’s handling of return-to-campus efforts, including its Comprehensive Health and Safety Plan, which was highlighted as a national model at the White House earlier this year. The System’s “strong leadership” made on-campus instruction possible — and as safe as possible — this semester, allowing the System-wide enrollment record to be shattered.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn