The University of Kentucky topped 30,000 students this fall for the first time, thanks to a record number of out-of-state students.
The number of freshmen from Kentucky actually dropped by 50 students, but out-of-state freshmen increased 40 percent from the year before. The total mix at UK is now 62 percent in-state and 38 percent out-of-state students.
That ratio is slightly higher than the projected 35 percent, but officials have said out-of-state students are desirable because they pay much higher tuition rates and increase diversity.
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"President (Eli) Capilouto is adamant that we don't turn away Kentuckians who meet our academic requirements," said UK spokesman Jay Blanton. "They are — and always will be — our first priority. But the demographic reality is an issue that has to be acknowledged."
He cited a study by the Western Interstate Commission that found high school graduates in Kentucky are projected to decline from 5 percent to 15 percent between 2008 and 2020.
Growth in out-of-state students also meant there was a bigger-than-expected freshman class of 5,000. The influx has caused some congestion and headaches, such as requiring the university to rent apartment complexes for extra housing.
Officials touted the quality and quantity of the freshman class, with Capilouto calling it a way to "make tangible, concrete steps toward being one of the handful of premier residential public research campuses in America."
Over the past year, the average ACT score went from 25.3 to 25.5; the number of National Merit Scholars went from 105 to 110; the number of students with perfect ACT/SAT scores moved from 9 to 10; and the number of black undergraduate students hit a new high of 2,107.
Overall, black students make up 9.5 percent of the student body, Hispanic students make up 3.8 percent and international students make up 3.6 percent.
Capilouto said he's pleased that UK is a first choice for students in the region.
"At the same time, it is a remarkable thing to grow by several hundred students, while at the same time enhancing and growing quality," he said.
Officials have partly attributed the surge in freshmen to excitement over seven new dorms that have opened on campus. Spokesman Jay Blanton said the overall growth helps offset numerous state budget cuts.