U leaders plan increase for undergraduate enrollment

By 2021, the undergraduate University population could expand from 30,500 to 33,000.

by Youssef Rddad

University of Minnesota leaders hope to see the school’s student population expand in a few years.
The number of undergraduates at the Twin Cities campus would increase by 2,500 by 2021 under a five-year enrollment plan reviewed by the Board of Regents earlier this month. 
The University also aims to have Minnesotans make up about 65 percent of freshmen and 68 percent of transfer students. 
The plan was originally proposed by University President Eric Kaler in December.
About 30,500 undergraduates were enrolled at the University in 2015, of which more than 20,000 were from Minnesota. 
The proposed plan would also speed up four-year graduation rates for at least 65 percent of students and increase minority and low-income student graduation rates. Current four-year graduation rates are about 63 percent.
The plan also calls for the University to maintain an average ACT score of 28 for incoming classes, seven points higher than the national average.
The University’s proposal also calls for a greater focus on students interested in STEM, health and environmental fields.
Transfer students would still make up about one-third of the student body, which University leaders say would maintain current pipelines from community colleges and help the school recruit and retain more students.
Despite success drawing more students from states such as Illinois and California, the University has still struggled to compete with its peers in the Big Ten for nonresident students, said Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education Bob McMaster. 
Still, the University’s Twin Cities campus has seen nearly 5 percent growth in out-of-state students since 2011, according to the Office of Institutional Research.
“We struggle mightily to bring students here,” McMaster said. “If we bank our enrollment strategy around Minnesotan students, we’re going to be in tough shape.”
The number of Minnesotan high school students is expected to decline until 2020, according to the state’s demographic center. 
With proposed tuition increases on out-of-state, non-reciprocity students, some regents are concerned about the impacts on recruitment of nonresidents. 
“I cringe a little bit by the 15 percent increase for nonresident students,” said Regent Peggy Lucas at the meeting. 
Tuition could increase for out-of-state students to $35,000 over the next four years. 
At the meeting, Regent Michael Hsu said the University should be more focused on making resident tuition more affordable for Minnesota residents. 
“Our intent should be to try and actually reduce in-state tuition,” he said.
The regents will vote on the enrollment and tuition plan during next month’s Board meeting.
Other University campuses also will reveal their own five-year plans in the coming months.