Dean's Corner

The data make clear that a liberal arts education continues to attract the hopeful, the driven

The future is promising. We’re well into the fall semester and a few trends point toward a reason to be optimistic. 

The college enrolled about 450 more freshman students in fall 2021 than in fall 2020. On the flip side, we enrolled about 75 fewer new transfer students than last fall. Neither of these recruitment results was a surprise. We knew throughout the admissions cycle we were recruiting well for freshmen. And national trends for transfer student enrollment have been increasingly challenging, and CLA has been affected by those trends. 

Overall, the college is about 300 students smaller today than it was last year at this time, due largely to accelerated graduation rates (many students took classes online in summer 2020 and summer 2021) and a slight dropoff in retention rates for returning students. We are looking into the causes for that dropoff, but suspect that after more than a year of taking classes remotely and online, some students might have chosen to take a breather before resuming their studies. Other colleges are showing similar patterns. 

Among freshmen, over 35 percent are Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) students, up nearly 4 percentage points from 2020. First-generation students are one-quarter of the freshman class, up 3.5 points. Pell-eligible are more than 26 percent, an increase of over 6 points. 

Among new transfer enrollments, 38 percent are BIPOC students, up 3.5 points compared to new transfer students in fall 2020. First-generation students account for 40 percent of new transfers, up more than 5 points. And nearly 35 percent of new transfer students are Pell-eligible, up over 3 points. 

You help make these impressive recruitment results possible. I know many of you act officially or informally as CLA “ambassadors” and when you recommend CLA it goes a long way in supporting our recruitment and admissions goals. Thank you. 

Our world-class faculty are a crucial reason for undergraduates choosing CLA. Research is the engine that drives our work in an R1 liberal arts college—advancing knowledge, providing students with a signature educational experience, and enabling first-rate reciprocal and community engagement. 

There are many ways to demonstrate this faculty excellence, but let me give a recent example. After the long duration of the pandemic, it was a delight to attend an in-person event recognizing the recipients of the various 2020 and 2021 University McKnight awards, generously supported by the McKnight Foundation. It was wonderful to see this public recognition for the outstanding work and accomplishments of CLA faculty and faculty across the University. Fourteen distinguished CLA faculty across 13 departments were recognized, indicating the depth and breadth of talented scholarship and creative work in CLA. See the list of McKnight award recipients. I also invite you to take a look at our Faculty and Staff of Distinction page and our Accolades page, which lists more of our award-winners.  

As we head into the holiday season, I am grateful for all that you make possible. Your investments, support, and friendship for the college are vital to maintain and build the prestige, reputation, and ranking of CLA. They are vital to ensure that students from all backgrounds and all walks of life have the opportunity for a rewarding and fulfilling education that teaches them about themselves and, as importantly, helps them understand others. Thank you for joining us on the journey to help our students create their lives of purpose and meaning through a transformative liberal arts education.


John Coleman

Dean, College of Liberal Arts


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