URI’s freshman class of 3,270 is record-breaker

Enrollment increase despite significant demographic decline in northeastern U.S.

KINGSTON, R.I. – December 4, 2014 – The University of Rhode Island’s 2014 freshman class of 3,270 is the largest in the University’s history, and the University’s overall enrollment of 16,795 is also an all-time high.

The University recently reported its official enrollment numbers to the Rhode Island Board of Education and the U.S. Department of Education, and they tell the tale of a remarkable period for URI. The University received an all-time high of 20,923 applications for those 3,270 freshman slots.

This year’s class was one of the most academically talented and racially and ethnically diverse. In addition, a record-breaking number was eligible for URI’s Honors Program.

This year’s freshman class enrollment represents a 4.7 percent increase over the fall 2013 class of 3,123.

“Our enrollment increase is occurring despite a significant demographic decline in high school graduates, especially in Rhode Island, New England, and the Northeastern United States more broadly,” said Donald H. DeHayes, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. “This means the University is attracting a disproportionately large component of a shrinking pool of high school graduates.

“Cost-effective pricing and financial aid strategies, along with a high quality academic experience and robust experiential learning opportunities, have reinforced the value of a URI education. This high value has translated into URI becoming the institution of first choice for many students. In addition, our retention of students has increased, which has further contributed to our record-breaking total enrollment. Affordability and a significant “return on investment” of a URI education are also major factors that has made URI both an attractive and highly valued investment for our students and their families,” DeHayes said.

Officials in URI’s Office of the Provost said promoting URI’s distinctive brand and programs, opportunities for undergraduates to work closely with top researchers across the University, and special efforts to help students finish their degrees on time, have been central to the admission and enrollment successes.

For example, establishing a winter J Term or January term last winter, during which students were able to complete or “catch up” on a required course in three weeks, or travel and study internationally with a faculty member, has been widely embraced by faculty and students. The credit-bearing J-Term travel courses allow students to study internationally at a significant savings from a full semester abroad without falling behind in their required coursework.

“The enrollment goal for J-Term 2014 was between 100 and 150 students. Instead, we enrolled 404 students and even had to turn some students away as our classes and winter programs were at capacity,” said Dean Libutti, vice provost for enrollment management. “It was a great success thanks to a campus-wide effort. We have expanded our J-Term offerings in January 2015 because of last winter’s great response by students and faculty.”

The University has also launched several student success initiatives, including a campaign, “Take 15, Finish in 4,” which encourages students to take 15 credits per semester from freshman orientation through senior year to earn the required 120 credits to graduate in four years.

While DeHayes offered strong praise for Libutti, and Cynthia Bonn, dean of admission, and their teams, he said attracting talented students is a University-wide effort.

“Our faculty, students and staff are very much a part of the process, from our Open Houses to Admitted Students days, during which community members talk directly with high school students about their academic plans, their housing needs, campus involvement and social activities and even how far it is to the beach.

“Focusing on delivering high quality programs and student engagement from freshman through senior year has led to substantial student interest in and success at URI. We are proud of our students and the team of faculty and staff who make these programs happen,” added DeHayes.