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Incoming class proves to be largest in university’s history

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Article Originally Published by Daniel Herrera on North Texas Daily

Article Originally Published by Daniel Herrera on North Texas Daily

The 2021 fall freshman class has become the university’s largest, according to university officials.

“This year’s growth includes the largest number of new freshmen in the university’s history [at] 5,533 — a record that has been set twice in the last three years,” Muller said. “The last record-breaking new freshmen class was 5,510 in fall 2019”

This comes after last fall, which did not see a record-breaking increase of new freshmen, but still saw an overall enrollment increase.

“Fall 2020 [saw freshman enrollment at] 5,237, [which was] when we were still mostly remote in the midst of the pandemic’s early stages,” Muller said. “Total enrollment in 2020 grew, just not new freshmen. For three years in a row the University of North Texas has grown significantly while higher education institutions across the country are facing large declines in enrollment.”

These numbers do not include the entire university system, which includes a Dallas campus and the Health Science Center in Fort Worth, according to Muller

The increase in enrollment has given student organizations like the University Program Council higher student engagement rates.

“I would say attendance at our events looks comparable to what we saw in the fall of 2019,” Molly Orr, director of Union Programs and Arts, said. “Students have been attending events and seem excited to be at them.”

However, the increase in enrollment has not fully returned to the same level seen in the fall of 2019.

“Our application numbers for membership this fall were just slightly under what we saw pre-pandemic,” Orr said. “Overall we had lots of interest. We are trying to implement best practices by cleaning as appropriate during events and encouraging our staff to wear masks. We are following UNT’s policies in terms of having a fully open campus this fall.”

Some of this concern about managing a large class has been reflected in the student body members like ecology freshmen Rhett Mote.

“As far as COVID goes, [there will] probably be some kind of issues because there’s these massive events with a lot people,” Mote.

Aside from the potential COVID-19 impacts, the implications of a large class have been largely unfelt, Mote said

“Pretty much everything for me is a big class,” Mote said. “When it comes to first flight week you could definitely tell there was a lot of people there. Ultimately it’s just a lot bigger of a class then I’m use to.”

For the university, the increase in enrollment has been a positive signal for how the university is doing. On Sept. 10, it published a news release on the enrollment trends, featuring a quote from President Neal Smatresk.

“At UNT, we are dedicated to the success of our students, and there is no better testament to the first-class experience and high-quality education we provide than the fact that so many students choose to start and complete their degrees with us,” Smatresk said. “The fact that we are growing as the pandemic continues to provide all of us with challenges is proof that students and their families consider earning a higher education a top priority.”

Featured Illustration by J. Robynn Aviles

Source: North Texas Daily

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