The second-largest school in the University of Texas system is educating more Texans than ever before.
Preliminary figures released by UT Arlington this week show a record for in-state enrollment with 34,249 students taking classes this spring. That’s close to 500 more than this time last year.
The increase in total enrollment, at least in part, is attributable to the extensive online programs in nursing and education that UTA launched in 2009.
Online and distance learning programs have become a national trend that allow schools like UTA to reach more students within the state and beyond.
The preliminary data also show an increase in the number of Hispanic students enrolled at the university — a burgeoning demographic in Texas.
But the most interesting and encouraging part of the report is the dramatic increase in the number of students in the school’s engineering programs.
Overall, the College of Engineering increased enrollment by 19 percent; the number of engineering students seeking master’s degrees jumped by more than 50 percent.
The college’s associate dean for graduate affairs, Pranesh Aswath, attributes this leap in enrollment to the school’s reputation and aggressive recruitment of graduate engineering candidates.
He also pointed to the university’s many summer camps for high school students, combined with a growing national focus on science and technology studies, for the college’s undergraduate growth.
Whatever the reason, it’s good news for an economy in need of a highly skilled workforce.
In a growing region with a panoply of opportunities for civil, aerospace, bio and software engineers, UTA is smart to pursue serious engineering candidates. Graduates of the College of Engineering’s 30 degree programs should be attractive future employees to the many Fortune 500 companies in the Metroplex.
However, other important data points to consider when gauging a university’s success are student graduation and retention rates. Large public universities with more nontraditional, part-time and nonresidential students tend to lag behind their private collegiate counterparts.
Historically, UTA has struggled in this area. But its graduation trends are moving in the right direction — another encouraging sign for the region and for Texas.