A record number of students are applying to the University of Houston this fall.
Total applicants for the 2011 fall semester have increased by more than 12 percent compared to this time last year. To date, nearly 41,000 applications have been filed from potential students asking to be admitted when the university begins classes the third week in August.
“Naturally, we appreciate this substantial rise in the overall number of those who are considering attending UH,” said Stephen Soutullo, associate vice president for student access and success. “It indicates that our university is continuing to raise its profile and establish itself as an institution of choice. While you can’t attribute such a broad increase to any one factor – the poor employment environment, for example – I think it is fair to say more people are recognizing us as a result of UH’s recent noteworthy achievements.”
In January, for example, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching classified UH as a Tier One research university, joining UT-Austin, Texas A&M and Rice as the state’s only designees. Additionally, The Princeton Review recently selected UH as one of the nation’s top institutions for undergraduate education, including it in the educational services company’s popular guidebook for the first time. And, UH has recently met the benchmarks to qualify for the National Research University Fund (NRUF) program created by the Texas Legislature and approved by statewide voters, reflecting the school’s Tier One-worthy accomplishments in research funding, endowment size, faculty distinction and high quality undergraduate and graduate education.
Soutullo pointed out that this increase in applications comes even as UH raises its admission standards.
“Going forward, this will allow us to admit students who are better prepared to succeed academically,” he said. “That, in turn, should help improve our graduation rate, which has been a priority in UH President Renu Khator’s commitment to student success.”
Breaking down the total applicants into broad categories, the current numbers for this ongoing process are:
- First Time in College (freshmen) – 18 percent increase
- Master’s – 6.5 percent increase
- Ph.D. – 9.2 percent increase
The upsurge in prospective doctoral candidates is of particular interest since the number of Ph.D.s awarded is a prime indicator used to establish and maintain a university’s Tier One credentials.
“The increase in applications to the doctoral and master’s programs reflects a commitment by the university to gradually grow the graduate programs over the next several years,” said Stuart Hall, associate vice president for graduate and professional studies at UH. “In particular, an increase in well-qualified doctoral students will both strengthen and enhance our capability to carry out research and scholarship consistent with those of a Tier One university.”
Soutullo, whose department oversees admission and enrollment at UH, said concerns about drastic cuts in available financial aid being considered by the state legislature during its recent session could have dampened potential applicants’ interest. But financial aid grants ended up being better funded than initially predicted and, said Soutullo, “I suspect a lot of students – and parents – were really paying attention to that.”
Although the record number of applicants could likely lead to a record enrollment at UH for the fall – with UH officials forecasting as many as 41,000 students compared to last year’s almost 39,000 – Soutullo stressed that sheer size wasn’t the university’s objective. “As a public university, we need to do our part providing quality higher education for the state of Texas. However, we’re not aiming at simply getting more students,” he said. “We want more and better students.”