USAO Reaches Another MEP Goal
Freshman retention has reached 72 percent this fall at the University of Science and Arts, one of the highest rates for any institution in Oklahoma – another goal reached in USAO’s 10-year Mission Enhancement Plan (MEP).
USAO President John Feaver on Thursday announced higher numbers in retention, campus housing and geographic diversity in fall enrollment. School officials were expecting a bigger enrollment decline this fall, after raising USAO’s admission standards to the highest in Oklahoma during the last four years, but full-time enrollment dipped by only 1.5 percent this fall.
“We welcomed the most talented freshman class in history, with an average ACT score of 22.5 among first-time freshmen,” Feaver said. “This freshmen class is strong, as 51 percent are in the top 25% of their high school class and bring with them an average GPA of 3.42. Fewer than ever need remediation, which is down 46 percent over the last five years.”
USAO has entered the fourth year of rising standards under the MEP, approved in 2005 by the State Regents to better differentiate Oklahoma’s public liberal arts college.
“Enrollment is steady, and that’s very positive, considering this institution is undergoing real sea change,” Feaver said. “USAO is serving as the state’s liberal arts flagship, a role it was assigned in 1908 but not really allowed to pursue aggressively until now. During the last four years, since the implementation of the MEP in 2005, our retention rate has grown from 58 percent to 71 percent, and our out-of-state enrollment has grown by 60 percent to include 24 other states and currently 17 other nations. Across Oklahoma, students are coming from 54 other counties.”
Headcount at USAO this fall is 1,087, which is down 6.1% from this time last year – mostly the result of declining part-time enrollments. Full-time-equivalent enrollment, which is the number used by state officials for budget planning, is down 1.5 percent to 935.
“We expected more significant losses as we raised standards aggressively,” Feaver said. “But we’re exceeding our five-year projections in the MEP. We are recruiting and retaining higher-performing students faster than we are losing part-time enrollees, so these enrollment numbers are neither surprising nor disappointing.”
Another benchmark in the MEP is national ranking. As planned, USAO has returned to the second tier among all baccalaureate colleges in the Western United States in U.S. News and World Report’s America’s Best Colleges annual guide for 2010. Better still, the magazine ranks USAO No. 1 on its annual ‘best buys’ list. For the eighth year in a row, USAO remains the highest ranked public institution in Oklahoma in U.S. News.
For the first time in decades, 49 percent of all students attending USAO live in campus housing – a number that reflects USAO’s MEP goal to build a primarily residential learning environment. This fall, 456 students are living in Sparks Residence Hall and the Lawson Court apartments on campus, which is a record and up another 1.6 percent over last year.
“Great liberal arts colleges have always focused on the whole experience – the living and learning environment,” Feaver said. “Only in this decade have we been able to focus so much attention on the broadest parameters of the learning community.”
By gender, USAO’s enrollment is 65 percent female. By ethnicity, the student population is 14 percent Native American, 4 percent African American, 4 percent Hispanic, 1 percent Asian, and 5 percent from foreign countries.
More freshmen are coming to USAO this fall from greater distances and are better prepared, according to the latest enrollment figures available from the university.