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A Commitment to Academic Excellence, Smart Growth and Value
Fall is a time of quickening excitement around campus. Students return, among them thousands of freshmen leaving home for the first time. Faculty and staff reconnect and show new colleagues the ropes.
For higher education as a whole, fall is a time of taking stock. Enrollment numbers roll in and research organizations and media companies release their rankings and assessments. We take notice of these internal and external benchmarks with an eye toward creating steady, intelligent growth that supports our responsibilities toward students, alumni, and their families, as well as our local community and the state of Texas.
This fall, we crossed the 20,000-student mark—really, soared right past it to 21,145 students, including a record 2,231 new freshmen—a 44 percent increase in the size of our first-year class. I'm often asked how big UT Dallas wants to become, and the answer is probably 25,000 to 30,000 students. At that point, we will be large enough to compete with the very best public research universities in America. We are well on our way there.
While the student body grew dramatically, markers of student achievement held steady or improved. This year's freshman class includes 88 National Merit Scholars, the largest number in one class ever. Our freshman class average SAT score remains one of the highest among Texas public universities. These aspects of our character are important. It's not just scale we're working to achieve. We're continuing to build quality.
Our steady enrollment growth is remarkable, given recent U.S. Census figures showing that higher education institutions across the country lost half a million students in 2012. In a survey by the global accounting firm KPMG, college administrators reported that family finances and an inability to offer competitive tuition were the biggest factors in the loss.
I believe that UT Dallas offers something very valuable for students, their alumni and families: a solid return on the college investment. We serve primarily students who pursue high-demand majors in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (the STEM fields), and those interested in business. About 63 percent of incoming freshmen are STEM majors and these are fields with the greatest demand for new graduates in the Richardson Telecom Corridor, the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and throughout the world.
Our students not only receive their degrees from a well-ranked research institution, they graduate with less debt than most students in the country. Recent data from U.S. News & World Report shows that most UTD graduates carry no debt. Those who do carry debt carry very low amounts of it relative to graduates of other U.S. universities. This metric provides yet another indicator of what's right at UT Dallas.
I couldn't be more proud of our institution and our people. We're ahead of target in just about every measure of our plan, from growth to quality. But this is more than a nice achievement for UT Dallas to showcase. What our faculty and students accomplish is a critical ingredient in our community's progress. The world is more competitive than ever. Our city and state need the output of great research universities like UT Dallas to stay competitive, and to remain prosperous. At UT Dallas, we produce—one student at a time—the brilliant and empowered human capital that will create the kind of future we'll all want to share.
About This Newsletter
The President's Viewpoint is a periodic newsletter distributed to a select group of alumni, friends, faculty and staff. It comes from the desk of Dr. David E. Daniel, president of The University of Texas at Dallas, and provides the ultimate insider’s view on the news and concerns of the University.