A university campus as seen from above, with several large buildings and the tops of trees.

UMBC sees solid enrollment in Fall 2020, celebrating returning students and high-demand graduate programs

UMBC’s reputation for academic excellence and welcoming community has encouraged students to remain focused on progressing toward their degrees in a time of significant global challenges and uncertainty. The University has also seen a notable increase in students returning to UMBC to complete their degrees after years away from higher education.

“Our strong enrollments this fall affirm that, even with the challenges our world is facing, our new and continuing students value the UMBC experience and recognize the importance of staying on track with their degrees,” says Yvette Mozie-Ross ’88, health science and policy, vice provost for enrollment management and planning.

Overall, 13,497 students are enrolled in UMBC this fall. At a time when many campuses across the nation are seeing double-digit enrollment declines, UMBC’s study body is down just 0.8% compared to fall 2019. UMBC’s current undergraduate population is 10,932 strong. The graduate student population has increased by 0.9% to 2,565. 

Fives students sit at tables in a shared meeting and work space in a brightly lit new building.
Undergraduate student researchers gather in a writing and meeting space in UMBC’s new Interdisciplinary Life Sciences Building, 2019.

Proactive advising has played an important role in UMBC students’ continued progress toward their degrees. “Connecting our students with caring and informed members of our University community is essential to help them navigate through these massive changes,” says Kenneth Baron, assistant vice provost for academic advising and student success.

Popular programs

Some new international graduate students have deferred for a semester or year, due to difficulty with travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, UMBC has seen very strong enrollment among returning master’s and Ph.D. students and an increase in new domestic graduate students in master’s degree programs.

“The online and hybrid format seems to be an attractive option for master’s students, in particular,” says Janet Rutledge, vice provost and dean of the Graduate School.

Man works on computer in a room filled with flags. His laptop has a sticker with a Retriever and "UMBC" on it, reading "The House of Grit"
Working on a laptop in The Commons, 2017. Photo by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC.

“We’ve seen growth in attracting students to UMBC’s excellent graduate programs in education,” notes Christopher Steele, vice provost, Division of Professional Studies. More students have enrolled in UMBC’s master’s programs in teaching, education, and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).

“We should also be very proud of how UMBC is showing up in Montgomery County,” says Steele. He’s reflecting on a 13.5% growth in UMBC student enrollment at the Universities at Shady Grove, in part thanks to expanding programs such as data science.

Four students sit at a table with laptops, papers, and coffee, in conversation.
Students study together at UMBC-Shady Grove.

Approaching the Finish Line

Another positive development this year is an increase in students working to complete their degrees through the Finish Line initiative. More than 120 students have returned to UMBC through Finish Line, some after several years away from college. “Their lives may have required that they disrupt their education for a little bit,” says Mozie-Ross, “but we’ve…leveraged this moment in time…when most of our classes are online, and gone out and pulled them back in.”

Women sit on chairs and couches, smiling, during an event.
Jumina Ito ’20, biochemistry, (left) and Karla Gonzalez ’20, social work, (center) at a 2019 orientation event for Returning Women Scholars, another program for returning students. Photo courtesy of the Women’s Center

For former students now looking at UMBC’s online learning experience and considering the possibilities, Mozie-Ross shares, “It’s never too late to finish that degree.”

“We get it,” she says. “Life gets in the way sometimes…and that’s okay. We still believe that degree has value for you as a lifelong learner…and we want to help you finish.”

Featured image: UMBC in summer 2019. All photos by Marlayna Demond ’11 unless otherwise noted.