In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, UTA has enrolled the largest freshman class in its history this fall semester.
The freshman class counts for 3,820 people, a 6.8% increase in first-time college students. Based on preliminary data, overall enrollment at UTA is estimated at 42,733 students this fall semester, representing a 0.3% decrease compared to fall 2019, according to a university news release.
“Truthfully, the freshman class would have been even bigger without [COVID-19],” said Troy Johnson, vice president for Enrollment Management. “We would have normally had another 100 international students in it.”
Johnson said the 0.3% decrease comes from high numbers of students conferring degrees and the global shift in international enrollment because of COVID-19.
One contribution to the significant increase in freshman enrollment this fall is the university’s growing academic reputation, Johnson said. Along with more efforts in recruitment, UTA has seen a multi-year increase in freshman enrollment in the last four years.
“This is a sign that once again, students, high school counselors, families [are] hearing about UTA, and they’re wanting to come here in bigger numbers,” Johnson said.
Nursing freshman Kayla Danage — who’s from Mansfield, Texas, which is about a 30-minute drive from Arlington — decided to attend UTA mostly because of the diverse student body.
Danage said when she first toured the campus, she felt welcomed by everyone she encountered and instantly knew this is where she wanted to pursue her undergraduate degree.
“UTA wasn’t always my first choice because it was so close to home,” she said. “But with doing a lot of research and talking to my friends and family and my mentors about it, I finally came to a decision that UTA was for me.”
Johnson said diversity and inclusiveness are other primary contributions that continue to bring prospective students to UTA. People from different backgrounds can come to campus and feel comfortable about their identity.
“That’s a great compliment to the university and its student body,” he said. “The way we’re building an excellent university as well as a diverse one.”
Photography freshman Imani Bega first learned about what UTA had to offer through her friends and peers that have taken classes at the university. She said they had nothing but good things to say.
When researching the university’s art department, she realized the professors seemed invested in giving students every outlet they could to succeed, which stood out when comparing UTA to other universities.
Diversity played a big role in Bega’s choice to attend UTA as well, she said.
Being at a diverse university has allowed Bega to learn more about other’s backgrounds, something she hopes to share in her photography as she learns new skills here, she said.
“I really hope to find myself through art, to the point where I can not only express myself, but bring awareness to things that a lot of people don’t talk about,” she said.
Bega said she wouldn’t feel comfortable attending a university not known for its diversity. She wants to be somewhere where she can relate to others.
Johnson has worked at various universities throughout his career, and UTA’s campus stands out from others in terms of diversity, he said.
Race, religion, background, socioeconomic status and the amount of first-generation students, among other factors — the diversity at UTA makes it a very rich place, he said.
“I find that America needs that,” Johnson said. “America needs places like this, where we’re learning about each other, [and] we’re understanding each other better.”
Danage said so far her experience living on campus and attending UTA has been bittersweet. Sweet because she gets to learn to be independent and meet new people but bitter because of the ongoing pandemic, and she’s away from her family.
“That’s a huge fear that I think I and a lot of other people have,” she said. “It’s kind of like a win-lose situation in a way.”
As for being part of the largest freshman class in UTA history, she said it’s an honor. She’s always known the university had a big student population, but she’d never predicted that her class would make history.
“Being the largest freshman class is definitely an honor,” she said. “It puts a medal around my neck.”