Kayla Davis & Celeste Gracia | Staff Writers
According to the most recent enrollment numbers, UNT’s enrollment has increased at a slower rate than other comparably sized universities in Texas. But the university is fast approaching its goal of becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution.
UNT has seen a 3.1 percent increase in enrollment over the past five years. In the fall of 2012, the total enrollment was 35,778; as of last semester, total enrollment was at 37,979.
But other schools in the metroplex, such as the University of Texas at Arlington, have seen higher enrollment growth in the past five years. UTA has grown by 12.2 percent, starting with a total enrollment of 33,239 in the fall semester of 2012 and a total enrollment of 39,714 as of last fall semester.
Vice president for enrollment Shannon Goodman said a reason for this lag may be attributed to the expansion of the UNT System. Opening campuses in Dallas and Frisco take away students that would otherwise go to the Denton campus. UTA’s growth, he said, is closely related to the growth of the UT System and their expansion into other forms of teaching.
“UTA has shown a greater growth,” Goodman said. “Some of their growth has come from their online programs.”
Other UNT System campuses have seen similar slowed growth rates. Opened in 2000, UNT Dallas now has 3,030 students enrolled as of fall 2016. Of those students, 40 percent identify as hispanic and 34 percent as African-American, a small increase from 2015.
Increasing diversity at UNT
In order to reach its goal of becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution, also called an HSI, UNT and other institutions must have 25 percent or more full-time hispanic undergraduate students. UNT currently has about 24 percent hispanic undergraduates, according to the online UNT fact book.
Along with a HSI status in reach for UNT, the university is also close to achieving the status of a Minority Serving Institution, also called MSI. To be labeled as MSI, half the undergraduate and graduate student population must belong to a minority category. This excludes international students and students identified in the category “unknown” or “other.” As of fall 2016, UNT has about 48 percent of undergraduate students who identified as minorities.
The UNT ethnic makeup of undergraduate students in fall 2016 was approximately as follows: white students comprised 48 percent, african-american 15 percent, hispanic 24 percent, asian/pacific islander 7 percent, american indian/alaskan native 2 percent, nonresident alien 3 percent and students who identified in the “other” category 1 percent.
Vice president for institutional equity and diversity Joanne Woodard said one of the reasons for the university’s increased diversity could be attributed to the multicultural center, a “campus community center” that provides programs aimed at helping minority students.
“When we can identify specific issues, we do try to focus attention and put some resources behind that,” Woodard said. “As the university grows, there will be a number of units that will have more programs that are targeted and focused on various issues of diversity.”
Room for growth
UNT is looking to push more online courses that can fit into working students’ schedules and offer a way for students to take classes without having to come to the physical campus, but still gain quality education. The university is even looking into potentially offering an entire major online, Goodman said.
“We’re going to be here [for the students] whether that’s bringing out online programs or going out to Frisco and standing up a new facility or any other place in the metroplex that we need to take those services so we can meet the demands of the workforce and the students that are there,” Goodman said.
Woodard said that another way to increase enrollment is through the further diversification of the school by reaching MSI and HSI status.
“Once we reach those statuses, it’s going to increase our national prominence. It will increase the number of applications we get,” said Woodard. “Students really want to come here if you got that HSI stamp. The implication is that this is a welcoming and friendly place for people who identify as that.”
Keeping HSI and MSI in mind, there are also goals to diversify the faculty.
“While it’s not necessary to have [faculty diversity] be directly equal [to student], it is important I think for students to see role models who look like them that they can relate to,” Woodard said.
Woodard said that once an HSI or MSI status is achieved, the university will implement more programs to better serve that population of students.
“I think it also opens us up to some potential opportunities to apply for various grants a funding that can enhance some of the services and programming that we offer to students,” Woodard said. “We’ll be able to partner more with other institutions that are HSI status.”
The university is projected to hit either of these statuses by 2018 but could get there even earlier, Goodman said.