Viewpoint: UD’s commitment to First State students

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By Dennis Assanis, University of Delaware president

Last week, I attended the Delaware General Assembly’s Joint Finance Committee (JFC) meeting to propose budget considerations for Fiscal Year 2021 for the University of Delaware.

I consider this chance to articulate collaborative opportunities between the University and the state to be a great honor. Indeed, UD has a long and proud tradition of serving the educational needs of the First State, with more than 50,000 alumni living and working here in Delaware.

With that said, I want to clarify and expand on some comments at the Q&A session of the hearing that may have been misinterpreted as critical of the efforts to prepare even more of Delaware’s students to succeed at the collegiate level. Nothing could be further from the truth. The full script of my presentation can be found at udel.edu/JFC2020. I would like to offer my perspective on the opportunities that lie before us all to make education as strong as possible in the great state of Delaware.

Every day, I see Delaware students achieve excellence at UD, both in and out of the classroom. In fact, I highlighted five Delaware-resident students at the JFC hearing for their accomplishments in research and scholarship. I simply could not be prouder of UD’s students, especially our Delawareans. I also applaud the dedication and hard work of Delaware’s teachers, many of whom are proud UD alumni as well.

At the hearing, legislators expressed concern about the percentage of UD undergraduates who are from Delaware; I want to ensure that everyone has the facts. UD accepts all Delawareans whom we believe can succeed at our university. This amounts to an acceptance of nearly 90% of the Delawareans who apply as first-year students, admitting them to either our main campus or our Associate in Arts program. This is far above our out-of-state acceptance rate of 68%. In terms of actual numbers, UD’s enrollment of Delaware undergraduates is at a record high of 7,480, which is up 16% over the past decade.

We also provide Delawareans with substantially discounted tuition. In-state tuition and fees this year totals $14,280, with Delawareans paying an average of about $7,000 a year after financial aid. This is far below the out-of-state price of $35,710 a year. Those Delawareans who graduate with student loans owe about $22,000, well below the national average of about $29,000.

UD has more Delawareans from underrepresented minority groups than ever before. Black, Hispanic, Native American Indian, and Hawaiian or other Pacific Islanders now make up about 25% of our undergraduate enrollment, compared to about 12% a decade ago. Specifically, 12% of our Delawarean students are African American, up from 8% a decade ago. We are moving in the right direction, and we are working every day to increase the diversity of the UD community.

We must all work together to enhance the pipeline for college readiness, cultivate a productive and rewarding academic experience, and prepare our next generation of leaders to continue the charge. Towards this goal, UD is working with the Department of Education and partners statewide to employ evidence-based practices that prepare even more students for success. UD’s Professional Development Center for Educators, for example, helps schools improve classroom instruction, teacher qualifications and administrative resources.

Our high school pipeline programs, preparation programs for incoming students, and robust advising services help students succeed and graduate. UD’s new Early College Credit Program, which we announced last month, is our latest effort to accelerate access to UD by providing free college courses to eligible juniors and seniors in every Delaware high school. UD’s Associate in Arts program, offered in all three counties, enables guidance and support for students to get on the right path to earn a UD bachelor’s degree. And we are continuing to invest millions of dollars in advising, tutoring, mental health/wellness and career services for our students. We are proud that our four-year graduation rate is in the top 10 among residential public institutions nationwide.

The University of Delaware is fully and deeply committed to not only improving educational opportunities and outcomes for all Delawareans, but also working with state leaders and dedicated educators to make our educational system an exemplar for others to emulate.

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