University of Oregon is welcoming students back for the fall term on Sept. 27, 2021.

University of Oregon is welcoming students back for the fall term on Sept. 27, 2021.

Elizabeth Gabriel / KLCC / AP

The University of Oregon is seeing its largest ever freshman class this year officials announced Monday. The same day the fall term started, the university said it is welcoming more than 4,600 freshmen students to campus.

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Last fall, when UO and many other campuses were mostly shut down due to pandemic restrictions, the university saw just under 4,000 freshmen.

“It’s a really exciting day,” said Roger Thompson, UO’s vice president for Student Services and Enrollment Management. “It’s the first day of class. We have all of our students back on campus, and outside of the weather being a little drizzly, everything else looks really bright.”

Thompson said that freshman student number — 4,602 students exactly — is unofficial, and it may be a bit higher as the start of the term continues.

Along with being the largest freshman class, this year’s class is also the most racially diverse among domestic students, Thompson said.

“We’ve actually set a record for diversity 10 of the last 11 years, so this is just simply building on a more diverse class,” he said.

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This year’s freshman class also has the highest average high school grade point average ever — 3.73.

Besides freshmen, UO is also seeing a record in total new students overall, including transfer students, at more than 5,600 students.

One factor contributing to UO’s largest-ever freshman class is that the university is accepting a higher share of applicants. UO’s admission rate has increased over the past few years: it was 88% this year compared to 84% last year and 82% in 2019.

“Our team knew we wanted to be understanding with our review of applications given how many students adjusted to online and remote learning their senior year,” Thompson told OPB. “We are proud that the academic quality for this freshman class did not suffer but rather broke a record.”

Many of those new students, as well as returning students, are living on-campus. Students began moving into on-campus residence halls in Eugene last Thursday. According to the university, 4,950 students were set to move-in over the course of last week.

“Our students, our new students in particular, they’ve had a really difficult 18, 19 months. Their high school junior basically through their senior year has been incredibly difficult and pandemic-impacted,” Thompson said. “So, I think there was sort of a pent-up energy for students to get back into college and get going with something that’s a little more normal.”

Oregon State University and Portland State University also saw increases in the number of students coming to live on campus, after a down year in 2020.

All of Oregon’s public universities have vaccine mandates. Thompson, at UO, said the vaccine requirement attracted students to campus. Currently, according to UO’s vaccination dashboard, 96.1% of students who have submitted their vaccination information — either proof of vaccination or a valid exemption — are fully vaccinated. There are still about 2,000 students who have not yet submitted that information.

Another unique facet of this newest class at UO is that it’s the first-ever recruited entirely virtually.

“We did not have campus tours from March 2020 on,” Thompson said. “For the first time since 1876, when the University of Oregon opened, we recruited an entirely entering group of students virtually, and through technology.”

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