An increase in the number of transfer, graduate and professional students along with a record retention rate helped the University of Missouri notch a second consecutive year of enrollment growth.


The official enrollment figure for the fall semester, 31,105, is 3.5 percent above the 2019 enrollment, another step on recovering from the crash in attendance that followed the 2015 Concerned Student 1950 protests over racial issues on campus.


The retention rate — which measures the percentage of freshmen who return after their first year in college — was 89.4 percent, up 1.5 percentage points from the record rate set 2019.


"We’ve created a lot of supports to try to move those numbers up," university spokeswoman Liz McCune said Wednesday. "When you see change like this, it is not by accident, it is by design."


Figures provided by the university show that there were 5,318 first-time college students enrolled this fall, down from 5,432 in 2019. That decline, however, is more than offset by 257 more transfer students, 217 more graduate students and 60 more professional students.


Black student enrollment rose slightly, to 1,757 from 1,741, but declined as an overall share of students. Hispanic student enrollment grew by 140, to 1,314, while enrollment by international students declined by 22.6 percent, to 855.


In a news release prepared to announce the increase, Provost Latha Ramchand said the university has looked carefully at what is needed for students to move from first-time enrollment to graduation.


"These successes are the result of a systematic and studied approach where we reviewed the challenges that our students faced, identified concrete steps to address these and converted the plan to action," Ramchand said. "I am truly grateful to our faculty and staff who make this happen."


The university has created new scholarships to cover the cost of attending for Pell grant-eligible students and cut costs for dorms by revising meal plans and housing offerings.


Other efforts work to identify individual students having difficulty, the release states.


There is an early warning system called MU Connect used to observing trends early — such as an individual missing class or scoring poorly on an exam — so faculty and advisors can offer help. New students are asked to complete a survey to identify challenges such as feeling homesick, overwhelmed or having financial difficulties.


"At the end of the day, we’re doing everything we can to give students the resources and the support they need to not just graduate, but to graduate with a meaningful education that has prepared them for success long after they have left MU," Jim Spain, MU’s vice provost for undergraduate studies, said in the release.