Dear Campus Community:
As we begin the summer months, I wanted to provide a brief update on several issues, particularly our efforts on the graduation and enrollment fronts. Efforts to improve the graduation trajectory of our students are not only showing promise, but proving effective. The last academic year (2013-2014) was a record year and we are poised to exceed last year's numbers following summer graduation (2014-2015). I will share those numbers when they become available. As you can see from the chart below we're making solid gains. Our total graduation numbers have increased from 3,999 in 2011-12 to 4,311 in 2013-2014, an increase of 7.8%. If you look at undergraduate degrees granted, we improved from 2,727 to 2,991, a remarkable 9.6% increase over two years. As you know, these totals represent far more than can be communicated in a line graph. The number of lives changed is nothing short of extraordinary. Thank you for engaging in the important work of helping our students complete their degrees.
Over the past few months, we have received several gifts to support the U of M Finish Line Program. As of this week, 101 students have already completed their degrees through Finish Line, with another 115 expected to graduate in December. As shared a few weeks ago, our summer initiatives have also been effective, with an increase in summer enrollment for the first time in three years, and a significant increase in the number of first-time freshman taking summer courses at the U of M.
I know that many have had questions about the impact of Tennessee Promise, with the expectation that it may well result in a decline in freshman enrollment at TBR universities, coupled with a marked increase in community college numbers. As of this week, our student orientation numbers exceed those of last year by about 11%. As you know, last year's freshman class represented an increase over the previous year of 11.6%. Given the range of new variables this year (e.g. Tennessee Promise, new private housing options around campus) it's difficult to be precise in our predictions. Some of our colleagues are predicting rather sizable declines in freshman numbers. Given the full range of data available, we are projecting some positive increase in freshman enrollment, with the worst case scenario suggesting flat enrollment (consistent with last year's numbers). I'll keep you updated as more definitive data becomes available. As we look at overall university enrollment, it is important to keep in mind that, prior to last year, we experienced two years of significant decline in freshman enrollment. Coupled with the increases in our graduation numbers, it will take several years to grow as an institution. The gains in freshman enrollment will be offset by smaller 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th year classes, secondary to the issues noted.
Thank you for your dedication and commitment to the U of M and Memphis. Go Tigers!
David Rudd | President