It may have seemed that Truman the Tiger produced a litter of 4,969 tiger cubs on Aug. 20, signifying an increase in enrollment at the University of Missouri.
A 13.1 percent increase in the freshman class has been the largest single year jump in class enrollment in the past decade. This is partly due to the university’s reconnection with Missouri families and the rebuilding of relationships negatively impacted by campus protests in 2015. MU admission’s office staff have visited all 114 counties in Missouri this past year to repair relationships with the university.
Jim Spain, vice provost of undergraduate studies and eLearning at MU, laid out the myriad of tactics the University is implementing to improve recruitment and retention. Expanded scholarships include land-grant scholarships for Pell Grant eligible students, ROTC, and border state scholarships. Additionally, there has been improvement in funding for legacies designed to make Mizzou more financially accessible.
“Students come, they have financial resources, opportunities for an amazing university experience, graduate and have opportunities they are excited about,” Spain said. “Why wouldn’t you come to Mizzou?”
More students are also returning to MU after their freshman year. The University saw an 87.3 percent return rate on sophomore students. Sophomore student Jarod Rains is off to a busy start this year at MU and could not imagine being anywhere else.
“After my first year at Mizzou, I could not wait to be back on campus,” Rains said. “The people here make the university feel like home and the educational opportunities keep me on my toes.”
MU hopes to see this return rate reach 93 percent by 2023. This would qualify the University as one of the top 100 public or private schools in the nation, Spain said.
“We provide a world class university education and a world class higher education experience for our students,” he said.
MU students are setting records for retention over the last three years. Nine out of 10 graduates are finding success, whether it is in higher education or a career that excites them. This success rate places MU 10 to15 percent higher than peer group averages. Spain said that the university’s goal is to move the graduate success rate from 90 to 95 percent in the next five years.
MU is taking a more personal approach to the way they interact with students.
“On some levels if you know someone cares, you will work a little extra hard,” Spain said.
To increase the feeling of belonging to the university, MU leaders are looking for ways to recognize struggling students and intervene earlier in their academic career.
To effectively support these students the advisers are stepping up to have a presence in their advisee’s life, a factor that has previously gone missing in some sectors of the university. To overcome this challenge, Mizzou will be reducing academic advising loads over the next six to nine months.
“The National standard is no more than 350 students per advisor, and in some places our advisors have over 500,” Spain said. “Our goal is to be at 350 students or fewer per advisor, so students have better access to support.”
The new tigers outnumber last year’s sophomore class by over 500 students. This has allowed campus buildings such as Responsibility, Schurz, Discovery and more to reopen for student housing. According to the Kansas City Star, residence halls this year are 93.4 percent full compared to 77 percent last year. This 16.4 percent increase reflects the increased enrollment for first year MU students that came along with the 2018-2019 freshman class.
“We recreated relationships, we were able to earn people’s trust back, we provided financial support and proven there is real value here,” Spain said.