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The most comprehensive campus revitalization in Eastern Kentucky University’s long history aims to transform the living and learning experience for what continues to be a near-record number of students.

The University recently welcomed its second largest class of new freshmen in the past 26 years (2,695 as of the first day of fall classes). As of Aug. 29, total enrollment had reached 16,954, virtually identical to the Fall 2015 numbers. When the final tally is announced in October, this year’s total enrollment will rank among the highest in the institution’s history. Before last fall closed at 16,959, EKU’s largest enrollment in the past 35 years had been 16,866 in Fall 1992; after a period of decline, it recovered to reach 16,567 in Fall 2010.

It’s not just a matter of quantity. University officials also note this is the institution’s best academically prepared freshman class. The percentage of students entering with developmental needs is down from 31 percent three years ago to 21 percent this year. Inspired in part by a scholarship model designed to attract more of the best and brightest students, this year’s freshman class also brings a higher average ACT score (22.6) and high school GPA (3.31) than any preceding class. Thanks in part to the University’s state-of-the-art New Science Building, the number of freshmen enrolling in STEM disciplines is up significantly.

When the second phase of the New Science Building, now under construction, is joined to the first phase next year, it will be the largest science facility on a Kentucky campus. Two new residence halls, and a Scholar House for single parents, will also open during the 2017-18 year, as well as a new dining hall. A renovated student center and new recreation center are in the planning stages.

Twenty-nine percent of this year’s new freshmen are first-generation college students. Ninety-one percent of the new freshmen are Kentucky residents, with 33 percent coming from EKU’s 22-county service region and 58 percent from elsewhere in the Commonwealth. The leading majors for the freshman class include pre-nursing, 211; criminal justice, 138; psychology, 100; computer science, 88; pre-occupational science, 80; and elementary education, 76. 

The University is attracting a record number of Latino students, and African-American and multiracial enrollment is also up slightly from a year ago.

Under the EKU merit scholarship 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 41 percent of its freshmen, up from 39 percent a year ago and 28 percent two years ago.

EKU Honors, which has led the nation the past 26 years in the number of student presenters at the National Collegiate Honors Council, welcomed 119 freshmen this fall. For the first time, the incoming Honors class averaged above 29 on the ACT, and 50 of the 119 recorded an ACT score of 30 or higher. Every incoming Honors freshman qualified for the EKU Regents Scholarship or higher, another first for the program.

“We continue to reach out to attract the very best students to EKU,” said EKU Honors Director Dr. David Coleman, “and this year’s data shows that we are becoming ever more competitive with the very best schools across our state and region.”

Freshman merit scholarships will be automatically awarded to qualifying students who apply for and are admitted to EKU for Fall 2017 by the Feb. 1, 2017, priority deadline. Students then have until May 1, 2017, 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, and the EKU Diversity Office recently established a scholarship program.