KU freshman class grows for fifth straight year, sets record for academic talent

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas freshman class has grown for the fifth-straight year — and done so in record-breaking fashion.

The 2016 freshman class includes 4,233 new Jayhawks on campus, an increase of 1.1 percent from last year. This is the fourth-largest class in history and the largest since 2008.

Moreover, these freshmen are the most academically talented in KU history, with an average ACT score of 25.7 and an average GPA of 3.58 — both all-time highs.

Beyond the freshman class, the university’s overall enrollment has grown for the third-straight year to 28,401, an increase of 1.1 percent. KU continues to have the highest enrollment of any university in Kansas, as it has every year since its founding.

2016 Freshman Class
- 5th-straight year of growth
- Most academically talented class in history
4th-largest class in history
- 2nd-most diverse class in history

2016 Overall Enrollment
- 3rd-straight year of growth
- Most diverse student body in history

View the full enrollment summary

"This is a special freshman class for the University of Kansas,” said Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. “We are pleased to have again increased the size of our freshman class and to have done so with the most academically talented freshmen in KU history. This is our fifth-straight year of freshman class growth, a remarkable trend and a clear indication that top students and their families want to attend a flagship research university that offers nationally ranked academic programs and life-changing opportunities.”

The KU freshman class stands out in the context of enrollment trends across the region. KU's full 2016 enrollment summary is available online.

Academic Talent

The record-setting freshman class is the direct result of KU’s efforts to provide the kind of academics and opportunities that high-performing students expect when selecting a university.

For example, in 2011, KU revamped financial aid with new four-year renewable scholarships. In 2013, the university implemented the KU Core Curriculum, which was designed to include undergraduate research, internships and study abroad. And beginning this year, the university implemented new admissions procedures for incoming students, which has further differentiated KU in the minds of high-achieving students and their families.

“The University of Kansas has done a lot of work to attract more students – and more high-ability students – and today’s data confirm our efforts are working,” Gray-Little said. “In particular, the new admissions procedures that took effect this year have clearly elevated our reputation among high-performing students.”

National Appeal

Fifty-nine percent of this year’s freshmen are Kansas residents, and 41 percent are non-residents – an increase of 3.8 percent. The freshman class also includes the third-most international freshmen in KU history.

In terms of overall enrollment, 61.9 percent of KU students are residents, and 38.1 percent are non-residents – an increase of 5.2 percent.

These gains in non-Kansas students are the result of strategic recruitment decisions made by KU leaders, said Neeli Bendapudi, provost and executive vice chancellor. A few years ago, the university’s recruitment and marketing efforts were largely regional. Today, KU has full-time recruiters across the country who, with the support of a national marketing campaign, are leveraging KU’s stature and brand to recruit new Jayhawks from all 50 states and more than 100 countries.

“Today’s enrollment data confirm that, in addition to being the top choice for high-ability Kansas students, our recruitment strategy is bringing more out-of-state students to Mount Oread, which helps diversify our university and enrich the work we do,” Bendapudi said.


In addition to its size and record-setting academic talent, this year’s freshman class is also the second-most diverse in KU history, with 22.9 percent listed as minority students – up from 22.3 percent last year. This includes a 9.2 percent increase in Hispanics as well as a 1.7 percent increase in African-American students.

In overall enrollment, the number of minority students grew 3.9 percent. Those students now comprise 19.8 percent of KU’s enrollment, the highest percentage in history.

“A diverse student body is crucial to the campus environment at KU,” Gray-Little said. “To truly be a robust community of scholars, it’s essential that we recruit students with diverse backgrounds, opinions and perspectives. Today’s data show we continue to make gains in this area.”

Retention and Graduation

Today’s enrollment data show KU’s one-year retention rate is 80.9 percent – the highest in 10 years. Moreover, 46.8 percent of the fall 2012 cohort graduated in four years, and 59.7 percent of the fall 2011 cohort graduated in five years – both all-time highs.

“Recruiting new students to KU is important, but it’s just the first step,” Gray-Little said. “Our aspiration is not simply to retain students but to graduate them. The numbers released today show we continue to make progress in how we educate students and ensure they earn their degrees.”

Additional Highlights

  • Graduate student enrollment is up 3.3 percent.
  • The new transfer count for Lawrence and Edwards is up 2.1 percent.
  • KU Medical Center enrollment is up 3.7 percent, and total headcount there is now the highest on record.
  • First-time freshmen enrolled in the School of Engineering is up 7.3 percent, an all-time high.
  • First-time freshmen enrolled in the School of Business is up 5.8 percent, an all-time high.
  • First-time freshmen enrolled in the School of Architecture, Design & Planning is up 18.6 percent.
  • First-time freshmen enrolled in the School of the Arts more than doubled that school’s enrollment.

The university is working to bring in next year’s class of Jayhawks. Prospective students are encouraged to apply for scholarships by Nov. 1.

Mon, 09/26/2016


Joe Monaco

Media Contacts

Joe Monaco

KU Office of Public Affairs