Friday Focus: Celebrating abundance of fall enrollment

Owen Guthrie, vice chancellor for student affairs and enrollment management
UAF photo by Eric Engman
Owen Guthrie, vice chancellor for student affairs and enrollment management

Sept. 15, 2023

— By Owen Guthrie, vice chancellor for student affairs and enrollment management

Autumn graces the Interior with its season of plenty. Countless freezers brim with moose, caribou, salmon, and berries, while woodsheds bear testament to our careful preparations for the months ahead. With the onset of cooler days, our UAF community becomes a source of warmth and vitality, abuzz with activity and fresh starts. This abundance comes as a relief and brings a feeling of satisfaction that all the hard work of the past year has been successful. 

At Tuesday’s Convocation, Chancellor White shared the great news that UAF welcomed about 2,500 new first-year students this fall. This is 650 more than last year. This is amazing and especially so given the local and national headwinds on higher education enrollments. Let’s take a closer look at the numbers. 

For all of UAF this fall, we have a total of 2,013 new degree-seeking students, which is 352 over last year’s total of 1,661. For the total of all non-degree-seeking students, we have 786 which is 335 more than last year’s total at this time of 451. These two numbers combine for a total of 2,799 students that weren’t here in the spring. Of this number, just under 300 have attended UAF at some point in the past but have been gone more than two years. That’s how we get to that number of about 2,500 totally new students to UAF this fall. Perhaps the most amazing number in all of this is that first time first year undergraduate students for all of UAF are up 39.7% over last year (986 for this fall, which is 280 more than last year’s total of 706). Just for the undergraduates of Troth Yeddha’ we are up to 1,090 new first-year students, which is 105 (or 10.7%) more than last year’s total of 985 first-year undergraduate students. 

Of course with these numbers comes additional diversity; students who identify as American Indian or Alaska Native are up by 100 or 26.34%, students who identify as Asian are up by 27.6% and students who identify as Black or African American are up about 37%. We welcomed 50 new international students, and the largest incoming class of first time full time four year undergraduates with a GPA over 3.8 ever. 

All of this leads us to total student headcount being up about 2.5%, credit hours being up 5%, and total revenue being up 9%. Amazing. 

Key to these numbers is the hard work of Jen Tilbury, Ginny Kinney, the team at the Academic Advising Center, and all academic advisors across UAF who worked hard last spring to encourage students to register for fall classes before going home for the summer. We know this has a positive impact on retention and our fall retention numbers are up over 3% for last year’s first year class. Because of all this work, the student experience for registering for fall classes was better than ever. Thank you! 

Also key to these numbers is the five years of Strategic Enrollment Planning (SEP) we have done. If you are one of the hundreds of faculty, staff, or students involved in that work - thank you. You know who you are. Your work has made a difference in the lives of our students, in their futures, and in ours. 

Metrics are important, but each and every single number represents a personal story. Each represents a personal decision (sometimes the decision of an entire family) to choose UAF as a place to invest one’s time and money in hopes of a better future. It is a great testament to the work of our faculty and staff, and to that of all our students, undergraduates and graduates. All of our combined efforts, from Admissions to Athletics, from Advising to Accounting, all the combined efforts of everyone across UAF are resonating with Alaskans, with Americans, and with students from around the world. They come here seeking a better future and they are finding it. 

As the birch and aspen leaves turn gold under the clear blue of a September afternoon the vibrancy of our community is about the most positive endorsement of our success that I can imagine. Meanwhile, the enrollment management team is hard at work planning recruitment trips, revisiting financial aid and residence life strategies, and booking appointments for visiting families and their prospective students. If you have an idea or suggestion about how to improve our enrollments, please share in our online form. Thank you for all you do to advance our community. Thank you for all you do to serve our students.

Friday Focus is a column written by a different member of UAF's leadership team every week.