The University of Oregon is growing in more ways than one — this year's incoming class made records for its size, diversity and level of academic achievement.
The published numbers are based on preliminary data, available at Around the O, with official demographic information on the class to be finalized Nov. 15.
The available data indicates that there was an 8.5% increase in the incoming class size, with 4,558 students present, up by more than 300 students from last year.
The incoming class is also more racially and ethnically diverse, with a reported increase in the number of first-year students identifying as domestic minorities at 1,573, compared to 2018's 1,518.
Additionally significant is an increase in various averages for academic achievements. The announcement reads that the class's average GPA was 3.65, up from the previous record of 3.61, and an increase from 2018's 3.59. The average SAT score was 1200, a slight increase from 1191 last year. The 2023 class is bringing in 62,209 college credits from AP, International Baccalaureate or dual enrollment classes.
“We did a lot of things new, and we also had things we'd been doing for a while that are in a time frame where they might stick a little more,” said Roger Thompson, vice president for Student Services and Enrollment Management. He said that the new changes involved a bulking of recruitment efforts.
“We had added regional in California; we expanded our recruitment efforts there,” Thompson said. “We expanded our efforts in Portland. We have regional recruiters now in Denver, Texas, Chicago. All those folks give us an opportunity to see more prospective students than we've ever had before.”
In terms of raising the academic average for the class of 2023, Thompson said that more emphasis was put on bringing in students with high levels of academic achievement.
“We directed more of our programming at high-ability, top-scholar kinds of students,” he said. “For students that received a scholarship offer, we did extra programming for them. We reached out in ways that connected them with faculty, deans, associate deans.”
“I think that kind of connection helped those top scholars see that while we might be a large university, you can always make a big university small,” Thompson said.
A spokesperson with SSEM said that there was a 2.4% increase in the admissions budget from fiscal years 2018 and 2019 — a total increase of $156,607.
However, Thompson stated that he doesn't believe that increased spending on recruitment boosted incoming growth, instead pointing to aspects that “personalized” UO, like allowing students to select their residence hall rooms, and enrollment teamwork. “Having our team work in ways that we hadn't worked before and utilizing all our team members, not just in admissions,” he said, referring to what he believed increased growth. “At the end of the day, it's people that make a difference.”
For those students coming in, the accommodations situation is set. “University Housing had been planning for the growth through the construction of Kalapuya Ilihi Hall, and the major renovation of Justice Robert Sharp Bean Hall,” wrote Michael Griffel, director for University Housing. Griffel told the Emerald in an email statement that such work added “just over 500” residence hall spaces and required a “commensurate number of staff and Resident Assistants.”
In addition to new construction, Griffel wrote that 75 large double rooms in GSH, Barnhart, LLC and Kalapuya Ilihi halls were converted into triple rooms.
Thompson said that continued enrollment growth at UO isn't necessarily a clear cut issue. “It's really an interesting time in enrollment. High school graduates in Oregon are shrinking, so for us to keep the same number of students in a freshman class at UO from Oregon high schools, we have to increase our market share,” he said.
He also indicated that the university expects to bring in more out-of-state students, especially from California.
“With respect to some of the growth we saw in California, Texas, Denver, we think there is more growth to be had there,” Thompson said. “Our regional recruiters have not been on the ground for that long, and in my experience, typically we begin to see the most growth in their third year to fourth year, and we're not at that stage yet.”