Despite tougher admissions standards for first-time freshmen and transfer students, the University of Louisiana's total enrollment remained relatively stable at 16,687 for the fall 2012 semester.
Last year the total enrollment was 16,885, a difference of 198 students.
"We projected that as our academic standards increased, we would see a decline in the number of eligible students," said Dr. DeWayne Bowie, UL vice president for Enrollment Management. "The decline was less than projected. While our freshmen class is a little smaller than last year, this class represents the most academically talented class that we have ever enrolled."
The class includes 87 high school valedictorians. The average high school GPA of the freshmen class increased from just over 3.2 in 2011 to nearly 3.3 in 2012. The average ACT composite score of the freshmen class increased from 22.25 last year to almost 23 (22.99) this year, while the number of freshmen scoring 30 or greater on the ACT surged 35 percent.
The number of freshmen participating in the Honors Program at UL has also increased by 15 percent this fall, according to Dr. Julia Frederick, director of the program. The Honors Program has grown from 936 overall students last fall to 1,085 this year.
First-time freshmen enrollment for the fall semester is 2,728, down from the previous year's 2,966 first-time freshmen. Numbers of transfer and re-entry students decreased by 209. However, those declines were offset by an increase of 272 students, including new graduate students, high school students with dual enrollment, and an improvement in the retention of undergraduate students continuing their studies, according to Bowie.
New degree programs added within the last year helped UL boost enrollment numbers, Bowie said. For example, the university began offering a Ph.D. program in systems engineering, a new master's degree in education and a new program that enables registered nurses to earn a BSN online.
UL President Dr. Joseph Savoie said he is confident about UL's future enrollment. The university has seen improvement in the retention of students and continues to take steps to foster student success, such as creating living-learning environments in residence halls on campus and increasing academic support services for all students, he said.
"Enrolling better-prepared students will improve our student retention and graduation rates," Savoie added. "We are very excited about our freshman class. We think that our dynamic university programs, our focus on excellence in everything we do and amenities like our brand new residence halls will continue to attract bright students to UL."
UL remains the first choice for many prospective students in Louisiana. According to ACT statistics released this summer, UL is the second most preferred school in Louisiana for students who indicated a college choice on their ACT exam, with 8,032 requesting their scores be sent to UL compared to 9,550 requesting that their scores be sent to Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond and Louisiana Tech University in Ruston received 5,827 and 4,455 requests respectively as the third and fourth most preferred schools.
Last week, UL was cited among 281 universities in the best National Universities category of the "2013 Best Colleges" by U.S. News Media Group. In August, The Princeton Review cited UL as one of the nation's best 377 institutions for undergraduate education.
The U.S. Department of Education's College Affordability and Transparency List identified UL as the most affordable university in Louisiana earlier this year. In addition to leading Louisiana as the university with the lowest average net price to attend, UL is among the top 10 percent of most affordable four-year public universities in the United States.