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It’s a new day at Eastern Kentucky University: ongoing construction of the second phase of what will be the largest science facility in the Commonwealth, plans to transform the educational experience with a Center for Student Life, various landscaping enhancements, and a revamped merit scholarship model designed to attract more of the best and brightest students.

Prospective students are paying attention. The University recently welcomed its largest-ever class of new freshmen (2,906, up 6.8 percent from 2014), part of what may go down as a record overall enrollment. As of Sept. 14, total enrollment had reached 16,959, up 3.2 percent from Fall 2014. When final numbers are announced in October, this year’s numbers will rank among the highest in the institution’s history. EKU’s largest enrollment in the past 35 years was 16,866 in Fall 1992; after a period of decline, it recovered to reach 16,567 in Fall 2010.

This year’s total includes a record number of Latino students. EKU hired a full-time Latino recruitment specialist in 2013 and recently added two diversity recruitment and retention specialists. Online enrollment also continues to rise, with approximately 3,000 fully online students.

It’s not just a matter of quantity. University officials also say this is the institution’s best-prepared freshman class. The number of students entering with developmental needs is down from 31 percent two years ago to 21 percent this year. This year’s freshman class also brings a higher average ACT score (22.2) and high school GPA (3.28) than any preceding class. Thanks in part to EKU’s state-of-the-art New Science Building, the number of freshmen enrolling in STEM disciplines is up significantly. For example, 33 freshmen are majoring in physics, up from seven a year ago, and the number of freshman chemistry majors increased from 85 to 121.

Dr. Brett Morris, executive director for enrollment management, attributed much of the good news to EKU’s new scholarship model, for which the University increased scholarship funding by nearly $2 million. Under the new model, most freshmen with an unweighted GPA of at least 3.0 and a composite ACT of 23 or higher will qualify for substantial scholarships for their four years of college. To make it easier for prospective freshmen to see how much assistance they may qualify to receive, the University developed a simple-to-use online scholarship estimator. Students can simply visit and plug in their GPA, test scores and state of residence.

This year, EKU awarded merit scholarships to 39 percent of its freshmen, up from 28 percent a year ago. Fifty members of this year’s incoming freshman class are former Governor’s Scholars, up from 29 a year ago.

Along with participants in the Governor’s School for the Arts, all Governor’s Scholars receive a full-tuition scholarship at EKU. Many of those students are now enrolled in EKU’s Honors Program, which for 26 years has led all institutions in student presenters at the annual National Collegiate Honors Council.

“Our incoming Honors Program class is among the best we have ever seen in terms of credentials,” said Honors Program Interim Director Dr. David Coleman. “The average composite ACT score of our incoming students is up, and a third scored above 30 on the ACT. For EKU Honors and the University as a whole, we are truly beginning to witness the growing perception of EKU as one of the top choices for motivated and high-achieving students from across the Commonwealth and beyond.”      

Freshman merit scholarships will be automatically awarded to qualifying students who apply for and are admitted to EKU for Fall 2016 by the Feb. 1, 2016 priority deadline. Students then have until May 1, 2016, to accept a scholarship and register for orientation.

EKU offers four merit-based scholarships:

·         Excellence Award, $52,000 for four years.

·         Founders Award, $40,000 for four years.

·         Regents, $24,000 for four years.

·         Presidential, $14,000 for four years.

The University has also added to its Rodney Gross Scholarship Fund to provide more opportunities for minority students.

In 2014, EKU was among only three institutions nationally to receive the Award for Outstanding Institutional Practice in Student Learning Outcomes, presented by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.