Record number of students attending UNMC

by Bill O'Neill, UNMC public affairs | September 09, 2005

A record number of students is attending the University of Nebraska Medical Center this fall, as UNMC's enrollment topped 3,000 students for the first time.

This fall, 3,002 students are enrolled at UNMC, an increase of 98 students (3.4 percent) from fall 2004.

Rubens Pamies, M.D., vice chancellor for academic affairs at UNMC, said several factors led to the increased enrollment.

"We have intensified our recruitment efforts and really started marketing our programs," Dr. Pamies said. "People like to be in a place that's on the rise, and UNMC definitely is on the upswing. As our reputation rises, so does the interest of students."

Several factors are enhancing UNMC's reputation, Dr. Pamies said. More UNMC faculty are serving on national committees and presenting at national conferences, and the campus's research enterprise continues to grow. UNMC's research support exceeds $72 million annually.

"Any time you can get national visibility, that gets the attention of students and their parents. It's like free advertising," Dr. Pamies said. "Research is another driving force. Students like to come where research is being done."

Dr. Pamies also noted that UNMC enrolled its first four students from Dillard University, a Louisiana university with which UNMC signed a partnership agreement in 2002. Since then, students from Dillard have visited UNMC during the summer to engage in research activities with UNMC scientists and to learn more about the health sciences. The four students include two in pharmacy, one in medicine and one in dentistry.

Because nearly all of UNMC's classes are limited in size, enrollment figures usually see little change. From last year, the number of UNMC's undergraduate students increased by 71 students, graduate students by 26, and professional students by one. UNMC turns away qualified students because the competition is so high, Dr. Pamies said. Increases in enrollment occur when UNMC gains resources to expand its distance learning opportunities or increase class sizes, or when UNMC admits additional graduate students whose positions are funded through research growth.

This fall marked the beginning of two new programs offered via distance learning. Radiography is now offered via distance education to Grand Island, and cytotechnology is being offered to students in Urbana, Ill. In addition, the clinical laboratory science distance program has been expanded to include sites in four states: Nebraska, Wyoming, South Dakota and Missouri.

In every college at UNMC, the credentials for the incoming first-year students are impressive, Dr. Pamies said.

"Our first priority is to educate the very best and brightest Nebraska students," Dr. Pamies said. "We're doing a very good job at that, and now we're also attracting some of the best students nationally. We will continue to make inroads in this area to meet our educational goals."

Some highlights of the incoming classes for the various colleges include:

College of Dentistry
Forty-five first-year students entered the doctor of dental science (D.D.S.) degree program. Those students have the highest grade point average - 3.80 - of any dental class ever. In all, 733 students applied to the dental program. Twenty-four students are entering the college's dental hygiene program. Four of the hygiene students are at the Panhandle Health Center near Scottsbluff. The 3.62 GPA of the dental hygiene class ties the highest for that program.

College of Medicine
The College of Medicine had nearly 1,100 applicants for its 122-member entering class. The incoming GPA of the incoming students is 3.75, which is tied for the highest GPA among the college's incoming classes over the past decade. The students' average score on the Medical College Admissions Test was the highest for an incoming class in the past five years.

College of Nursing
This fall, 147 undergraduate students have entered the traditional bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree program and the RN-to-BSN program. The College of Nursing received 341 applications for the 147 positions. These students are taking courses at the college's four brick-and-mortar campuses in Omaha, Lincoln, Kearney and Scottsbluff. The students' incoming GPA is 3.50.

Increased resources in the form of federal grant funding to start an accelerated nursing program and new classroom facilities in Lincoln have allowed the CON to enroll more students. There are 761 BSN students enrolled this fall, up 5 percent from last fall's enrollment of 724. Already, 317 students have applied to begin in spring 2006 for 154 available positions in the traditional, five-semester BSN program. The college has 87 applicants for the accelerated BSN program, which has 10 available positions each in Lincoln and Omaha.

College of Pharmacy
Sixty-five students have entered the doctor of pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree program. Those students were selected from 272 applicants. Of the admitted students, 87 percent (58 students) are Nebraska residents. The average cumulative GPA of the incoming class is 3.71.

School of Allied Health Professions
With 172 students, this year's class marked the largest in history, as several of the programs responded to workforce shortages. There were 606 applicants for the 172 positions in the 10 allied health programs. The average GPA of the entering students in four of those programs -- diagnostic medical sonography, nuclear medicine, physical therapy and radiation therapy -- was 3.7 and above. Students in the SAHP pursue degrees in clinical perfusion, diagnostic medical sonography, clinical laboratory science/medical technology, nuclear medicine, physical therapy, physician assistant, radiation therapy, and radiography and certificates in cytotechnology and medical nutrition.

Graduate students
The number of graduate students at UNMC increased by 5.1 percent, from 512 students to 538. Much of that increase is attributed to students in the new Cancer Research Graduate Program (CRGP), a Ph.D.-granting program in cancer research at UNMC. The program, in its first full year, has 19 students, placing it among the largest graduate programs at UNMC.

"This program reflects the tremendous growth in our cancer research programs and the increased interest in this field by our students," Dr. Pamies said. "It will prepare students for a variety of careers in academia, government or the private sector."