College welcomes its largest freshman class ever

The following clip is a news story published on the Texas Science website. It can also be found at this link: http://web5.cns.utexas.edu/news/2012/08/largest-freshman-class/

This fall the College of Natural Sciences welcomes its largest ever freshman class, continuing an upward trend in student enrollment in the college.

As many as 2,152 freshmen started classes this week.

“I feel proud that so many students have sought out our college,” said Sacha Kopp, associate dean for undergraduate education. “Graduates in the sciences have promising career futures, and we have exceptional faculty and small community programs that help students succeed.”

Enrollment in the college has steadily increased over the past three years, and an approximate 15-percent increase in freshmen enrollment will make this year’s 2012 freshman class the college’s largest on record. The college has also become the largest at the university over the last several years. The total number of students in the college has increased from 9,811 in fall 2011 to an expected 10,365 for fall 2012.

“We are striving to make sure these many new students receive the numerous opportunities the college offers for experiential learning and joining small learning communities, and that we live up to the very high expectations that students rightly have of The University of Texas at Austin,” said Kopp.

Almost all of the college’s disciplines, from astronomy to statistics, will see an increase in number of freshmen, and enrollment figures show departments such as physics, astronomy and mathematics nearly doubling if not tripling. The major area with the highest enrollment is biology.

Kopp believes there are several reasons for the enrollment increases that stem from sources both inside and outside the college.

“There is a great deal of excitement about careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), and these are being highlighted in various publications such as U.S. News & World Report or The Wall Street Journal,” Kopp said. “STEM has become a national conversation, and STEM careers lead to innovations in technology, health care and energy, to name a few.”

College of Natural Sciences programs are also gaining national attention. UTeach, the college’s program to prepare teachers, has been lauded by both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama. The Freshman Research Initiative, which engages more than one-third of college freshmen in research, was held up as a model in the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology 2012 report, “Engage to Excel.”

To accommodate more students, Kopp said the college has made a number of changes, such as adding seating capacity in entry level classes by adding additional sections or enlarging sections, providing additional teaching assistant support, and hiring more advisers.

“Hopefully we are keeping pace, but we are still watching carefully,” said Kopp. “Down the road, we have additional work to do in the upper division courses and laboratory courses but we are well aware of the effect this large class will have as it moves forward.”

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