Thomas More University is set to achieve a huge milestone when it celebrates its first 100 years in 2021. Originally a small liberal arts college, the Roman Catholic institution has expanded the programs offered, its faculty, and the student population over the last decade. This period of sustained growth saw the college achieve university status in 2018. An overview of the Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati student market size and the history of the Thomas More provide valuable context for other insights into the school. Further insights offer a breakdown of Thomas More´s external reputation, student life, student finances, and recent media coverage. In contrast to other schools, Thomas More has benefited from a trend that has seen increasing numbers of students looking to complete their post-secondary education in Kentucky. Another trend sees students looking to spend part of their university career studying overseas. Finally, students that dropped out partway through their studies and the need to develop diverse and inclusive campus´ present opportunities to Thomas More to consolidate its position and become a leader in the field.
INSIGHTS INTO THOMAS MORE UNIVERSITY
Thomas More University Background & History
- Thomas More University was founded in 1921 by the Benedictine Sisters as Villa Madonna College. The Roman Catholic institution is currently situated on a 100-acre alcohol-free campus in the Greater Cincinnati area in Crestview Hills, KY. The Catholic identity of the university is evident through the expression of Catholic values in all aspects of university life.
- Originally a small liberal arts school, Thomas More sought university status in 2016 due to an increasing student population. Their status changed to university in 2018. Thomas More President David Armstrong said at the time, “The name ‘university’ brings prestige to a higher education institution. As we are trying to grow our regional, national, global footprint university status is important.”
- The university offers 42 undergraduate academic majors, including “accountancy, art, biology, business administration, communication, criminal justice, economics, education, English, forensic chemistry, health care management, history, humanities, international studies, laws, management information systems, mathematics, medical laboratory science, nursing, philosophy, physics, political science, psychology, sociology, Spanish, sports and entertainment marketing, theater, and theology.”
- All students are required to undertake a core curriculum program in addition to their major. The core curriculum aims to equip students with effective oral and written communication skills, critical thinking skills, and computer technology skills contributing to the program. In addition, the program seeks to broaden the students’ knowledge base and understanding of the laws of nature, delivering content introducing them to other cultures, aesthetics and art, and Christian scripture and ethics.
Kentucky & Greater Cincinnati University & College Market Size
- The post secondary student population in Kentucky is 243,299 students.
- Kentucky is home to eight public universities. These universities have a total of 122,074 students enrolled. The number of students, acceptance range, average admission GPA, and the SAT score range for each of the eight universities are available here.
- In addition, there are 22 private colleges and universities in Kentucky. 52, 903 students attend these institutions. The number of students, acceptance range, average admission GPA, and the SAT score range for each of the 22 colleges and universities is available here.
- There are also 17 community and technical colleges with a combined enrollment of 83,521. The number of students, acceptance range, average admission GPA, and the SAT score range for each of the 17 community and technical colleges is available here.
- In the Greater Cincinnati area, there are three public universities: University of Cincinnati (3 campuses) 46,798 students; Miami University (2 campus), 19,934 students; and Northern Kentucky University students, 16,212. The total number of students in public universities in the Greater Cincinnati area is 82,944.
- There are 12 private universities or colleges in the Greater Cincinnati area. They are home to approximately 14,000 students.
Thomas More University 2020 Ranking and Other Metrics
- US News ranks Thomas More University in the following categories:
- #65 Regional Universities of the South (tied)
- US News ranks universities out of 100 based on outcomes (40%), expert opinion (20%), faculty resources (20%), financial resources (10%), student excellence (7%) and alumni giving (3%). In 2020, Thomas More received a score of 51/100.
- 67.5% of the classes offered by Thomas More have 20 or fewer students in them.
- The average six-year graduation rate is 49%. The six-year graduation rate of those receiving a Pell Grant is 42%, while the six-year graduation rate of those who did not receive a Pell Grant is 80%.
- US News has calculated the student: faculty ratio at Thomas More to be 15:1.
- There is selective admission at Thomas More. Currently the acceptance rate is 91%.
- All US students are required to submit either SAT or ACT scores. Of those accepted to Thomas More, 50% had an SAT score between 1010 and 1140 or an ACT score between 19 and 25. The average range for the SAT critical reading score was between 470 and 570 and the math 480 and 560.
- No indication of the required GPA is available, however, there was a note that Thomas More considers it a very important academic factor. The high school class rank of an applicant is not considered, but letters of recommendation are taken into account when assessing the merits of an application.
- Thomas More does not have a deadline for applications. It offers rolling admissions. Applicants can expect to know the outcome of their application within three days following submission.
- The following graphically illustrates key metrics relating to faculty and class size.
Thomas More University Student Metrics
- The total number of students attending Thomas More in 2019 was 2,238. 2,030 of the students were undergraduate and 208 graduate. 47% of the students are male and 53% female. 37% of the students attending Thomas More are first generation. 89% of the students are full-time, while 11% are part-time.
- The ethnic diversity of the student body is graphically illustrated below. The majority of the students were white.
- 25% of the students attending Thomas More live in college-owned or affiliated housing, while 75% of the students live off campus. The university offers both co-ed and single sex dormitories.
- The athletic association the school is part of is the NAIA.
- 1.9% of the Thomas More student population are veterans or on active service.
- At eight years, 49% of the 633 students that started their studies at Thomas More graduated, 40% transferred, and 12% withdrew. The average freshman retention rate, which provides a good indication of student satisfaction, is 65%
- The most popular courses of study based on the average number of students graduating each year and their median salary at graduation (where available) are as follows:
- Business Administration, Management, and Operations — Bachelors degree (28%) — 92 graduates, $46.800;
- Registered Nursing, Nursing Administration, Nursing Research and Clinical Nursing — Bachelors degree (14%) — 48 graduates, $54,400;
- Business/Commerce General — Associates degree — 36 graduates. N/A;
- Biology General — Bachelors degree (7%) — 23 graduates, N/A;
- Business Administration, Management, and Operations — Associates degree — 17 graduates, N/A;
- Liberal Arts and Science, General Studies and Humanities (7%) — Bachelors degree — 16 graduates, N/A
- Teacher Education & Professional Development, Specific Levels & Methods — 12 graduates. N/A;
- Communication & Media Studies — Bachelors degree — 11 graduates, N/A;
- Health & Physical Education/Fitness — Bachelors degree — 10 graduates. N/A; and
- English Language & Literature General — Bachelors degree — 10 graduates, N/A.
Thomas More University Student Financials
- For the 2020/21 academic year, the average cost of tuition (and fees) is $33,420. The average cost of college-owned (or affiliated) accommodation is $9,100. The median federal debt level of a Thomas More graduate is $26,375. Among those who did not graduate the average level of federal debt was $7,500. 63% of the undergraduate students are paying down there federal loan debt.
- Thomas More University offers financial aid based on either need or merit. 84% of first year students received needs-based financial aid with the average grant $19,622. Need-based financial aid includes a self-help option (work study).
- The average need-based financial self-help aid was 59%.
- Merit-based aid is awarded for specific talent, academic or athletic achievement. The average grant of merit-based aid to first year students will be $3,908 in 2021.
- Thomas More was able to meet 73% of its student´s financial aid need. The details of financial aid at Thomas More are illustrated graphically in the following chart.
- 18% of students graduating from Thomas More had taken out private loans. Of these students, the average amount owed in private loans at graduation is $26,813.
- 70% of the graduating class of 2019 had taken on debt to fund their studies. The average debt of the 2019 graduating class was $33,687.
- Although it is degree dependent, the average salary for a Thomas More graduate is between $46,800 and $54,400.
- The most recent media stories and press coverage of Thomas More University are detailed below:
- On 11 November 2020, Thomas More hosted an outside ceremony to honor veterans. During the ceremony the 46 student veterans or veteran´s dependents attending Thomas More were acknowledged.
- The Institute for Religious Liberty hosted a virtual interfaith program on power collaboration at Thomas More on 28 November 2020. This was the tenth event hosted by the Institute of Religious Liberty since it was founded in 2015.
- On 27 November 2020, Thomas More´s biology field station for undergraduate research was awarded a $10,000 Duke Energy Foundation grant. This grant will be used to support undergraduate research in the ecological and environmental fields.
- Thomas More announced on 8 September 2020 that the fall enrollment was the second-highest in its history. The 1,289 full-time students enrolled for the fall semester represented a 5% increase over the previous year. New student enrollment was up 12.9%, with 472 new students starting at Thomas More. The returning student enrollment of 817 is the largest in the university´s history. Total student numbers for the 2020/21 academic year will once again exceed 2,000.
- Despite the lingering pandemic, Thomas More hosted an in-person commencement ceremony on 17 August 2020. More than 200 students and their families were in attendance. Students were given a set time to arrive and walked across the stage to receive their diplomas in front of an audience of just their own family. The class of 2020 consisted of 485 undergraduate and graduate students representing 12 states and nine countries. 516 diplomas were awarded.
- The following faculty and administration appointments have been announced in 2020:
- Maria Garriga was appointed Vice Provost.
- Robert Arnold was appointed Acting Dean of the College of Business for the 2020/21 academic year.
- Molly Smith was appointed the first Provost of Thomas More. She commenced duties on 1 July 2020, and also holds a faculty rank of Professor of English.
- Angela Crawford, Dean of the College of Business accepted the position of Vice President for Digital, Graduate, and Professional Programs. She started in her new role on 26 May 2020.
STUDENT TRENDS AT THOMAS MORE UNIVERSITY
Increasing Student Enrollments in Kentucky
- As the impact of the pandemic kicks in, universities across the country have seen a downturn in student enrollments for the second academic year in a row. Last year the US post-secondary student population fell below 18 million for the first time in over a decade when the total number of students fell by 231,000.
- Kentucky is the exception, instead experiencing an upward trend over the last couple of years in the number of post-secondary students enrolling at universities and colleges across the state. Over the last five years, the number of students attending college or university in Kentucky has increased by over 50%.
- Thomas More University is no exception, experiencing the second-highest number of student enrollments in its history in fall 2020. This will be the second consecutive year that the school’s total student population has exceeded 2,000 students. In fact, the last time Thomas More experienced growth of this nature was 50 years ago in the 1970s.
- The increasing student enrollments in the state are being driven by the growth in the number and size of private universities within the state and the larger number of students looking to take dual credit courses at private institutions.
- Other Kentucky universities that are experiencing increased student enrollments, further illustrating this Kentucky trend, include the University of Kentucky with 31,057 enrollments representing a 2% increase over 2’019.
Expectation of International or Off-Campus Study & Training
- Over the last few years, a trend has developed whereby students seek to spend part of their college education in a university overseas, often doing unique work and study. They will usually receive a set number of credits toward their degree for this time period. This trend is not specific to the US. This is a global trend. In the 2019 academic year, the US played host to over 1 million international students for the fifth year in a row.
- This is a longstanding component of medical training at a range of universities worldwide. Future doctors spend a quarter of their last year in training in a hospital overseas.
- To a degree, the mobility of students making up the bulk of the current student population is driving to this trend. The current generation of students has grown up with technology, which means they can log in to work or school from anywhere in the world. Even before the pandemic, the trend to work remotely was growing. While it has taken longer to gain traction in universities and other educational facilities, it is fast making up for lost time.
- Students today have a more global approach to life, and for many, travel and experiencing another culture is just as important as receiving their college degree. As a result of this broader outlook on education, students are increasingly looking to attend universities that will afford them this opportunity.
- Thomas More University has put in place a program that affords students this opportunity. The study abroad program is run in partnership with International Education. This organization has formed partnerships with universities and educational institutions around the world and can help students find placements.
- An increasing number of US universities are extending limited financial support for their students to facilitate the process. There are also a number of universities that offer international students a place free of charge.
- New York University has campuses in 15 countries. The students at New York University are given the opportunity to study in locations like Prague, Shanghai, Tel Aviv, and Buenos Aires. Some trips are specifically orientated toward first year students.
OPORTUNITIES AT THOMAS MORE UNIVERSITY
Creating a Diverse and Inclusive Campus
- Diversity and inclusivity are two words that have become highly politicized in the last couple of years, and few organizations that have refused to embrace the concept they represent have faced increasing levels of public scrutiny and in some instances the accompanying backlash.
- Colleges and universities face this same scrutiny concerning the makeup of their student and faculty populations. As previously discussed, Thomas More´s study body is predominantly white.
- This scenario is not unique with private colleges and universities the country over being almost carbon copies of Thomas More, US News has created a diversity index ranking each university in the US. Kentucky regional schools are part of the Southern group. This group is topped by the University of North Carolina who has a rating of 0.72 (the closer a university is to one the more diverse they are). Campbellsville University is the first from Kentucky, with a rating of 0.38 they come in at number 61. Thomas More has a rating of 0.3 and sits at number 84.
- Despite this, Thomas More attempts to present a diverse university picture with the photographs of staff and faculty on their website, predominantly representing ethnic minorities.
- There is increasing pressure being placed on universities and schools to ensure their student body and faculty are ethnically diverse and inclusive of all. While Thomas More scores well in gender and overall diversity, it is way below average in ethnic diversity, as the following graph illustrates.
- The university is well below average (45.94) for ethnic diversity, with a score of 20, which sees it rank #3498. The apparent conclusion is Thomas More is not ethnically diverse. Unfortunately, as the following graph illustrates, the lack of ethnic diversity at Thomas More extends to the faculty as well.
- Given that most universities within the state of Kentucky score equally poorly, there is a genuine opportunity for Thomas More to act as a leader in this area. This would undoubtedly contribute to wider recognition among potential students and make the campus more appealing to minority groups.
- One of the effects of embracing diversity is increased performance from the student body. Studies have shown that increased diversity is directly related to improved performance because students work and concentrate better in a diverse environment.
- 1,700 students in California have started organizing protests demanding their schools “diversify our narrative.”
- Vanderbilt University is one experiencing the benefits. 15% of its faculty is from an ethnic minority.
Former Students Who Failed To Complete University Studies
- According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, more than 36 million Americans have partially completed some form of college or university education. This group represents a massive potential market for colleges and universities across the country.
- What adds to the opportunity former students present is the ongoing job losses sustained as a result of the pandemic. With the number of unemployed growing by the day, the opportunity to return to school and complete partially completed studies is, got some, looking more attractive by the day. The need to create a competitive edge amplifies the opportunity as Americans look to up skill and gain an advantage in a very tight and competitive labor market.
- Research has revealed the following characteristics of this group, specifically:
- 56% quit their education in their 20s.
- The group has been described as a “potential windfall” for universities and colleges across the country. The Executive Director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, Doug Shapiro has said, “Potential completers are the most relevant sub-group for institutions looking to increase enrollments today, as well as for policymakers looking to reach state and national post secondary attainment goals tomorrow.” He went in to say, “This is a population that’s been written off. Imagine what we could do as a nation if we really focused on these students.”
- In the last five years, 3.8 million former students with partially completed degrees have returned to school, almost one million have subsequently graduated. The following graph illustrates the path and progress of returning students.
- A program to encourage these students to return and complete their education has been initiated. “Degrees When Due” aims to identify former students with college credits that did not graduate before helping them connect with an institution so they can complete their degrees.
- The University of Hawaii has recognized the potential of this group and has targeted marketing initiatives toward its 34,031 students that left before completing their degree. Pennsylvania universities, California and Clarion have also looked to capitalize on the opportunity this group presents, targeting them in an attempt to reverse declining student numbers.