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SLU Enrolls Second-Largest Freshman Class in University History

On Aug. 28, Saint Louis University started the first day of the 2017 academic year with 1,640 first-time freshmen, a more than 4 percent increase over last year. Hailing from 43 U.S. states and 40 foreign nations, the new class is the second-largest in the University’s nearly 200-year history.  


The University’s newest legacies — students who are children, grandchildren and siblings of SLU alumni — pose for a photo near St. Francis Xavier College Church during this year’s Welcome Week. Photo by Luke Yamnitz

“Given the decreasing numbers of high school graduates, the growth in the new class is wonderful,” said Jean Marie Gilman Cox, SLU’s dean of admission. “It is very exciting to see some of the nation’s most talented and dedicated students making SLU their university of choice.”

The freshman class has an average high school GPA of 3.9 and an average ACT composite score of 28.1 — an all-time high for SLU — placing these new Billikens among the top 10 percent of all students tested in the United States.

The average standardized admission exam scores for incoming students at SLU have improved each year since 2010. The University has enrolled five of its largest and most academically gifted freshman classes since 2011.

New Home Away from Home

Many of SLU’s first-year students will live on campus in one of the University’s two new residence halls, Grand Hall and Spring Hall, which opened in 2017 and 2016. Featuring suite-style rooms and numerous amenities, these new housing facilities represent a nearly $115 million investment in the on-campus experience for students.

Ready to Serve

In addition to SLU’s rigorous, Jesuit-based education, the newest Billikens are clearly excited to embrace the University’s long tradition of service to others. Nearly 90 percent of them have indicated that they will engage in volunteer activities. SLU is the No. 4 university in the nation for community service according to Washington Monthly.

Students in Grand Hall's dining facility

On the first day of move-in, new students grab food inside SLU's newest residential facility, Grand Hall, which opened in August. The 740-seat campus dining hall features restaurant-style seating, a fireplace, multiple food stations and an outdoor courtyard.  Photo by Luke Yamnitz

More Enrollment Milestones

First-day undergraduate enrollment increased over last year as well. Jay Goff, SLU’s vice president for enrollment and retention management, said the growth was aided by the University retaining returning students at record levels and new growth among international students. 

For three consecutive years, Saint Louis University’s retention rate (the percentage of first-year students who return for a second year) has been 90 percent or higher. Nationally, the average first-to-second year retention rate for private doctoral universities is about 82 percent.

New international partnerships and recruitment programs have also increased enrollments this year. More than 260 new international students have started classes on the St. Louis campus, compared to 165 students in 2016. SLU’s Madrid campus expects a larger freshman class this year as well. 

"The entire campus community has worked very hard to make sure student success is our top priority and that SLU has an inclusive environment that supports students from throughout the world,” Goff said.  

First-day enrollment for graduate and professional students is somewhat lower than last year. Goff said that was due primarily to higher graduation rates among post-baccalaureate students and declines in select disciplines.

Overall, first-day registration levels indicate that Saint Louis University will have approximately 12,900 degree-seeking students from all 50 U.S. states and more than 76 foreign countries this fall. That total does not include the more than 6,500 students expected to participate in SLU’s dual credit and workforce development programs. 

Student registration continues through the week, and final census enrollment figures will be available later in the fall.

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