VCU Engineering continues to break records in enrollment, degrees awarded

VCU’s College of Engineering continues to see steady growth in enrollment and graduation rates — even breaking its own records in some of these arenas, according to the university’s Office of Institutional Research and Decision Support. 

The college has also seen strong increases in the number of women and underrepresented minorities who choose to become Ram Engineers. 

What do the numbers say about VCU Engineering’s progress in achieving its mission to create and grow a community of exceptional students? Here are some takeaways: 

Enrollment keeps growing

VCU Engineering set a new record for student enrollment in fall 2021, with more than 2,200 undergraduate and graduate students. This total represents a 7.3% increase over the previous fall’s enrollment. 

Computer science saw a 19% increase in new students, driven in part by the college’s robust response to programs focused on building the region’s tech talent workforce. These include the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative and the Greater Washington Partnership’s Capital CoLAB program.  

Students are staying — and graduating

The last three academic years have seen the largest graduating classes in VCU Engineering’s history. With 451 graduates in 2020-21, the college broke its previous record, turning in a 2% gain over 2019-20’s number of graduates. The 2019-20 graduation numbers represented an 11% gain over the previous academic year, which held the record at the time. 

These increases have been consistent across degree levels, with graduation gains in undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs.

Diversity is our strength

The latest figures also attest to the college’s commitment to bring women and underrepresented minorities into the field. The numbers of women, African American and Hispanic students in VCU Engineering’s student body all continued to increase over the last year. 

These steady gains year-over-year have led to substantial and noteworthy increases in VCU Engineering’s diversity numbers over time. Since 2008, the percentage of women engineering students at VCU has gone from 17% to 29%. The number of African American engineering students enrolled increased by 58%. The number of Hispanic engineering students rose by 60% in the same period. 

Meaningful experiences: the secret sauce

What’s behind VCU Engineering’s growth in recent years? Gregory E. Triplett, Ph.D., the college’s senior associate dean for academic affairs, attributes much of it to an uptick in meaningful experiences that matter to students — and make them desirable to employers. 

“We know people go to college to get an education, find a job and live happily ever after,” he said. “But it's also about ‘finding my niche.’ The last several years have seen increases in programs that teach students not only how to be an engineer, but why. 

Since 2018, the number of engineering student organizations at VCU has gone up 25%. Student participation in internships and co-ops has increased more than 300% since 2018. 

The number of African American engineering students on the Dean’s List has more than doubled, and the number of Hispanic students has nearly doubled.  

All of these data points indicate that VCU Engineering’s faculty and staff are “training students to discover their passions, tap into them and use their degrees in ways they may not have considered before,” Triplett said. 

“That’s what has our students ‘running through the tape’ at the finish line.”