First-Time Students Push UTEP to New Fall Enrollment Record

By Daniel Perez

UTEP News Service

El Paso native Darren De La Riva moved a lot with his family while he was growing up, including stops in California, Illinois, Texas and Arizona, but his first choice when it came to college was The University of Texas at El Paso.

De La Riva, a first-generation college student, is among the 4,713 freshmen enrolled at UTEP this fall who helped the University pass the 23,000 student mark for the first time in its 99-year history. One of the main factors behind the enrollment increase, which was announced last week, was a larger than normal group of first-time college students, 3,112. The University officially has 23,003 students, compared to last year’s record of 22,749.Freshman Darren De La Riva moved to El Paso from Phoenix this fall to attend UTEP because he was impressed with its education and science curriculum and research agenda. He plans to become a high school biology teacher. Photo by J.R. Hernandez / UTEP News ServiceFreshman Darren De La Riva moved to El Paso from Phoenix this fall to attend UTEP because he was impressed with its education and science curriculum and research agenda. He plans to become a high school biology teacher. Photo by J.R. Hernandez / UTEP News Service

De La Riva, who moved to El Paso from Phoenix, based his decision on the curriculum and the research opportunities available at UTEP. He is a freshman biology major with a minor in secondary education with a goal to become a high school biology teacher.

De La Riva has tried to embrace as much of the Miner culture as possible in his first few weeks of school. On top of his classes, he works as a student research assistant in UTEP’s Enrollment Services Center and is a proud dues-paying member of the Miner Maniacs, energetic students who attend Miner athletic events.

“The University helps you to push yourself so you can reach a higher level,” he said. “I like the way things are going. It fits the way I learn.”

The enrollment figures – the 15th straight annual increase – are the latest piece of good news to start the year as the campus gears up for its Centennial Celebration in 2014. The biggest honor was the #7 ranking among national colleges and universities by Washington Monthly magazine that is based on the institution’s research, social mobility and service to the community and beyond. For the second year in a row, UTEP was rated #1 in the social mobility category, which is defined as the recruiting and graduating of students with modest means.

Other highlights include a generous $600,000 donation from ADP to continue our Math and Science Teachers Academy, and the signing of a collaborative agreement with medical professionals at Sierra Providence Health Network (SPHN) that will allow for collaborative clinical and scientific medical research and education between UTEP faculty and students and SPHN medical and professional staff.

UTEP officials said the growth in student enrollment is a result of years of outreach within the neighboring school districts and the positive national publicity the University has received during the past few years that trumpets the institution’s successful and innovative programs.

On top of its many academic accolades, the U.S. Department of Education data has ranked UTEP as the best value and most affordable of the emerging research institutions of higher education classified by the Carnegie Foundation.

“We are delighted that more and more students are choosing UTEP,” said University President Diana Natalicio. “While many universities are experiencing declining enrollments, UTEP’s enrollment growth demonstrates that we are fulfilling our commitment to provide students with affordable access to excellent academic programs. UTEP’s #7 overall ranking by Washington Monthly magazine and our #1 ranking as best in the nation for fostering student social mobility validates UTEP as an outstanding choice.”

University data shows significant growth among first-time freshmen (3,112 compared to 2,889, a 7.7 percent increase from last year), and transfer students (1,705 this year, a 4.2 percent increase from 1,637 in 2012). There also was a 2 percent bump in UTEP’s undergraduate retention rate from 2012.

“Overall undergraduate enrollment is at the highest level in UTEP’s history,” said Craig Westman, Ph.D., associate vice president for student solutions and outcomes integration. “It is clear that El Paso continues to see UTEP as the region’s great educational opportunity. Its quality research education coupled with one of the lowest research institutional costs in the nation make UTEP the right choice for higher education.”

Many of today’s UTEP students, including Top 10 percent high school graduates and first-generation college students, will benefit from UTEP’s “Access and Excellence” model that balances affordability and availability with quality academics full of research opportunities. These students have access to counselors, financial planners and degree advisers, and can select from 71 bachelor’s, 76 master’s and 20 doctoral degrees, with more on the way.