UCF’s growing enrollment has pros, cons
Quality sees no decrease as population rises
Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Updated: Sunday, October 21, 2012 15:10
UCF’s student enrollment has surpassed 59,000 students, making UCF the second-largest public university in the nation by enrollment. While this may concern many people, UCF officials are certain that the growth is in the best interest of the university.
UCF President John C. Hitt addressed the size and growth concern during his State of the University speech on Sept. 25.
“While we have grown, our goal has never been to be big. Rather, we have grown in order to offer access to higher education and opportunity to highly qualified and motivated individuals. We champion access to UCF because of a simple truth: Higher education transforms lives,” Hitt said.
Hitt also said the university may have to consider capping enrollment next year if state funding continues to be reduced.
While some students may find the university’s size intimidating, Shelby Birch, a freshman advertising & public relations major, said it’s up to the students to be more than just a number.
“Being one in almost 60,000 is a little intimidating, but that’s life. It all depends on what you make of it and how you’re going to get your name out there. You can just be a statistic or an anonymous person, or you can actually have a name by making a name for yourself. It all depends on you,” Birch said.
The growth of UCF has also contributed to the quality and diversity among admitted students. The university has been able to admit some of the most academically qualified students.
Zenaida Gonzalez Kotala, senior communications coordinator for UCF News & Information, said the number of National Merit Scholars enrolled at UCF has increased 146 percent in 10 years. The enrollment number rose from 98 in fall 2002 to a school-record 241 in fall 2012. That number has more than doubled from 120 to 241 in the past five years alone.
In addition, the average SAT score for the fall freshman class increased 77 points from 1167 in fall 2002 to 1244 in fall 2012.
UCF also prides itself on becoming more diverse, nearly four out of every 10 UCF students are minorities. The percentage of students who are minorities has increased from 27.4 percent in fall 2002 to 39.3 percent in fall 2012.
UCF News & Information also reported the number of degrees awarded has increased 73 percent from the 2002-2003 school year to the 2011-2012 school year.
“In tough economic times, UCF is preparing a growing number of students to enter the workforce and advance in their professions,” Kotala said.
Hitt said state funding cuts for UCF have totaled $144 million in the past five years. That amount comprises UCF’s $52.6 million portion of the $300 million reduction for the State University System this year.
Next year, state lawmakers have guaranteed to reinstate UCF’s funding, along with the rest of the $300 million allocated to the State University System. If that is not done, students could be severely impacted.
“If the $300 million is not restored, the impact on students will be substantial, with fewer course offerings, larger classes and graduation delays,” Hitt said.
UCF’s size has helped the institution survive the effect of state budget cuts and the recession, with the help of student fees. The growth of the university has allowed for modern amenities to be implemented.
Some of those services include the new Career Services and Experiential Learning building, Technology Commons and the Recreation and Wellness Center expansion. All of these projects were funded with student fees.
The new Career Services and Experiential Learning building is better equipped to prepare students for success in their careers. The building, which opened in 2011, features 17 private interview rooms, including a boardroom-style suite where cameras record students’ practice interviews.
Technology Commons, which opened this year, is a state-of-the-art hub that allows students access to the latest learning technologies. There are study spaces that promote collaboration, and students can view, test and purchase the latest products there. Students also can use a video recording and editing suite.
In 2011, the Recreation and Wellness Center expanded. Additions included the fitness space, a lap pool, an equipment rental center and volleyball and racquetball courts.
The population growth has played a role in academics, diversity and amenities. It has also served as an economic engine for the university.
As of July 2011, the main campus is more than 1,400 acres with 158 buildings. UCF’s other campuses and centers jointly span 10,369,661 gross square feet.
According to UCF News & Information, UCF’s College of Medicine is the anchor of Lake Nona’s Medical City, which will create a projected 30,000 jobs and more than $7.6 million in annual economic impact.
Also, two new partnership buildings have helped UCF’s Institute for Simulation and Training and Central Florida’s $3 billion modeling and simulation industry grow.
UCF students have also been able to help support Mayor Buddy Dyer’s vision for a thriving digital media cluster in downtown Orlando. The Center for Emerging Media is a cornerstone of Dyer’s Creative Village vision, and it is home to the nation’s fourth-ranked video gaming graduate school, the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy.
Whether or not students get involved on campus is their choice, but the effect the number of people in a class has on the quality of education is out of the control of students.