By Murray Evans
The Associated Press
LEXINGTON - Enrollment at the University of Kentucky is at a record high and the number of black students is on the rise, school officials said Friday.
"It's hard to find a cloud in this, quite frankly. Across the board, it was quite an outstanding year," UK Provost Michael Nietzel said.
The enrollment of 35,052 students for the fall semester - a number which includes undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students as well as students attending Lexington Community College - is an increase of 870 students from the fall 2002 semester.
Of that number, 2,627 are black, a 4.6 percent increase from the fall 2002 semester, when 2,511 blacks were enrolled. The number of freshmen black students at UK is up more than 30 percent, from 159 to 208.
There are 3,693 students in a freshman class that Nietzel called the most academically talented in university history. The middle 50 percent of the high school grade-point averages for incoming freshmen range from 3.3 to 3.9, an increase over last year's 3.2-3.8 range.
Also, the middle 50 percent of ACT scores for that group ranges from 22 to 27. The national average is 17 to 24.
Ninety-one percent of the freshmen have met selective admissions criteria, which Nietzel said is another milestone for the university.
"Students and parents recognize that this is a terrific investment and that they get a wonderful education for their tuition dollar," Nietzel said.
UK is making a concerted effort to more aggressively recruit minority students, which is one reason the number of black students has increased, said Don Witt, UK's director of undergraduate admission and university registrar.
"We have worked one-on-one with these students," Witt said.
Jessica Ravizee, a 20-year-old junior psychology major from Lynch, Ky., who attended Cumberland High School, said increased scholarship offerings for minority students were a main factor in her decision to transfer to UK from Southeast Community College. Ravizee, who is black, received a full-tuition scholarship.
UK recruiters "talked about minority scholarships, and they talked about all of the things that you could be involved in, being a minority," Ravizee said.
The combination of simultaneously dealing with a difficult budget situation - for the third straight year, UK will receive less in state appropriations during the current fiscal year - and burgeoning enrollment is challenging, Nietzel said. He did not rule out a cap on enrollment in future years, but said he hoped that would not happen.
"We are using the resources we have as effectively and efficiently as possible," Nietzel said. "There have been, in some cases, slightly larger class sizes to accommodate those students. We have had to add some faculty, in terms of some part-time instruction, to accommodate those students.
"We are beginning to bump up against the upper limits of current capacity."
The university hopes to address student housing issues with the construction of four residence halls, he said. A groundbreaking ceremony will be held on Monday for the residence halls, which will be the first built on campus since 1979.
Every student who wanted to live on campus this semester has been able to do so, Nietzel said.
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