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Record freshmen class, national rankings highlight 2017 State of the University address

Record freshmen class, national rankings highlight 2017 State of the University address

September 22
16:32 2017

UNT President Neal Smatresk spoke at the fourth annual State of the University address on Thursday afternoon in the Winspear Performance Hall. The State of the University is a yearly address where the president presents a speech over the successes and adversities faced by UNT in the year prior, as well as laying out future plans and goals.

The State of the University address began with an overview of some of the past year’s highlights.

Highlights from fiscal year 2017

The enrollment for the fiscal year topped at 38,000 with an additional 1,200 students at the UNT New College at Frisco.

One highlight Smatresk mentioned was the number of freshmen. This year’s class is the largest ever at UNT, with freshman enrollment increasing 3.3 percent from last year. In addition to freshman coming in at a higher rate, the qualifications of these freshmen have also improved with regards to class rankings and SAT scores.

“Their qualifications were wonderful,” Smatresk said. “We have more students in the top 10 percent and with high SAT scores. Our SAT scores…they jumped six points this year.”

Freshmen are not the only subset to see a marked growth. UNT welcomed 26 new National Merit Scholars to its ranks. This increases the total to 55 scholars.

Rounding out the growth among the student population, Ph.D. enrollment grew 5.7 percent. Smatresk noted the importance of this and calls Ph.D. enrollees and their freshman counterparts “…the bookends of reputation.”

In addition to the influx of new students, 35.7 percent of students graduated in four years. This is up five percent from 2016 and approximately double the rate from 2008.

On the academic side of things, UNT now has 69 programs ranked nationally in the top 100, up seven programs from 2016. UNT’s research expenditure has grown as well. This past year UNT added 50 patents filed, eight patents issued and six licenses executed.

Recent hires at UNT have also given the university its largest faculty to date.

Facilities at UNT have been the subject of a few changes. Ground was broken on the new College of Visual Arts and Design building, and new work has begun on both a new dining and residence hall as well as the Eagle Visitor Center.

In business, UNT has partnered with the Toyota Production System, continued to work with the Dallas Cowboys on mutually beneficial educational programs and joined leagues with China-based NetDragon. NetDragon, China’s biggest gaming company who also does work in education, is working with UNT to create advanced educational software.

The partnership could fundamentally change how UNT does business, Smatresk said.

“We have established a partnership with them to work together to build new products, develop new technologies, move into an advanced world of online education that is next generation — not your grandmother’s online,” Smatresk said. “And we are currently working on projects that I believe have the capability of revolutionizing how we gather our students to learn and how we make it easy for our faculty to engage.”

Potential challenges and how to address them

The university is faced with several challenges heading into the future. Fewer high school graduates are increasing the recruitment competition, UNT transfer schools have declining enrollments, Master of Science and international students are leaving the university and due to increased system charges and legislative cuts, the university is set to lose $10 million in annual revenue.

In order to combat these issues, the university is further committing itself to building on research, improving student access to education, improving learning via new technologies and working with the private sector to build better curricula.

With regards to research, UNT is adding on new institutes such as the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorder Studies. The university is also expanding doctoral funding and building a new wing at Discovery Park for Biomedical Engineering.

To help with education, the university will be refining its financial aid and international recruiting efforts. It will be working with Dell and Collin County Community College to streamline the transfer process. UNT is also attempting to increase retention by removing barriers to graduation, improving financial aid delivery and expanding advising support.

Future Goals

UNT’s primary goal for this year is to make the university a “Next Generation Research University.” In short, keep the university on the cutting-edge of education worldwide.

Smatresk explained that in order to do this, UNT will be working with its aforementioned partners to improve course design, learning outcomes and operations.

“This is going to be a revolution,” Smatresk said. “This is going to be something that happens this year that’s really exciting. So we will work with NetDragon, Toyota, the Cowboys, Frisco, Denton, Dallas. We’ll work with everyone who wants to bring something to the game to help us move ahead to help our students.”

Feature Image: UNT President Neal Smatresk delivers the State of the University address on Sept. 21 at the Murchison Performing Arts Center. Smatresk talked about the achievements and the future of UNT. Sara Carpenter

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Joshua Cassidy

Joshua Cassidy

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