Growth: At a Glance
*Percent change from 2014 to 2024

  • Total Enrollment: 30%
    (36,168 to 46,940)
  • Graduate Student Enrollment: 98%
    (6,678 to 13,268)
  • Degrees Awarded: 41%
    (8,186 to 11,567)

After a decade of leading UNT through incredible transformation, UNT President Neal Smatresk is planning to leave behind the presidency in August to focus on what he loves most -- teaching and mentoring students.

The fastest growing and 3rd-largest university in Texas, UNT today is a thriving community of nearly 47,000 students. And with more than 85,000 graduates entering the workforce during President Smatresk's tenure, UNT has created career-ready, innovative leaders to propel the North Texas region, the state of Texas, and the nation forward.

Smatresk, who joined UNT in February 2014, says serving as UNT's president has been the highlight of his career.

"When I first took on this role, I knew we had the potential to achieve great things, and because of the dedication, passion and hard work of our faculty and staff and the support of our alumni and community, we have flourished in ways that are nothing short of remarkable," Smatresk says.

Under Smatresk's leadership, UNT transformed into one of the largest Tier One research universities in the nation with a decade of record-breaking enrollment and has become the 3rd-largest university in Texas. In fact, UNT has been instrumental in shaping higher education across Texas -- accounting for 52.3% of the growth in new enrollees at state public universities since 2019.

Notably, UNT's record-breaking enrollment numbers for the past five consecutive years are coupled with a rising number of degrees conferred. In the past two years alone, UNT has awarded nearly 24,000 new degrees. In the last decade, more than 85,000 graduates have entered the workforce, making a monumental impact on the economy.

Grad success

  • Degree Holders Since 2014: 85,143
  • Potential Annual Earnings: $5.4 billion
  • Minority Graduation Rate Gap: 2.2% (7% in 2014)

During Smatresk's tenure, UNT has not just grown its student body and alumni ranks, but also has achieved many milestones -- such as earning recognition in the Carnegie Classification as a Tier One research university, receiving Hispanic- and Minority-Serving Institution status, and then climbing from 118 to 86 among the best to become the highest ranked Tier One institution in the North Texas region.

"I am proud of the many notable accomplishments President Smatresk has made over the past decade on behalf of UNT," UNT System Chancellor Michael R. Williams says.

"He has created a strong foundation and legacy that will empower UNT to achieve great success in the years to come. We are thankful for his leadership and unwavering commitment to UNT and our North Texas community."

Embracing a Caring Culture
President Smatresk at a Frisco ribbon cutting ceremony

Smatresk's focus on a caring community culture and the success of every student paved the way for significant strides in closing the gap in minority graduation rates from 7% to 2.2% and launching new programs to keep university costs affordable while ensuring all students have the necessary support through programming such as the UNT Food Pantry, the First-Generation Success Center and UNT One Stop, which provides better admissions and financial services.

Smatresk doesn't just want students to succeed while they are at UNT. He set a vision for UNT students to be as prepared as possible when they graduate, not just for their careers but for their lives. He focused universitywide efforts on strengthening educational excellence and creating career-ready graduates to provide Texas with a strong workforce while helping ensure students have the knowledge to achieve their professional goals. This included expanding UNT Career Center offerings through the newly opened Satish and Yasmin Gupta Career Center at the UNT at Frisco branch campus and The Wilson Jones Career Center in the G. Brint Ryan College of Business.

Programming and services also were expanded across the main Career Center.

"Dr. Smatresk has done a lot of great work for UNT and our community," says Andy McDowall, UNT System student regent from 2022 to 2023. "What is really great about him is that he really cares about the people he interacts with.

"He was very willing to show up for students and talk with students, and I appreciated that when he was with students he would always say 'This is the best part of my day,' and that's the number one thing he got right. He really has that servant leadership mindset and understanding that he was here to make the university better and to create those paths for students to succeed."

Growing National Prominence
President Smatresk with UNT mascot Scrappy

While the university was making strides for student success, Smatresk also led efforts to increase UNT's national prominence to maintain its Tier One status and make the university more competitive with top-tier peers.

Since 2014, UNT added high-demand degree programs, made countless cutting-edge research discoveries, was invited to join the Association of National Research Libraries and secured record funding from major national agencies to carry forward UNT's mission of research excellence.

In 2023, UNT reached $86 million in research funding -- the highest ever -- from national agencies such as the U.S. Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. The support for UNT research only will increase thanks to Texas voters who overwhelmingly voted to approve Proposition 5 in November 2023 to create the Texas University Fund (TUF), which will help accelerate research innovation, keep top talent in Texas and propel UNT further into national prominence.

"I am a big believer in 'leave it better than you found it,' and Dr. Smatresk has definitely done that," Chair of the UNT System Board of Regents Laura Wright ('82) says.

"UNT is in an extraordinary position today after making advancements in enrollment and research growth during the last decade. He has been an innovative leader who has opened several new degree programs in really important areas and we are very grateful for everything he has done."

Expanding UNT's Reach

Part of growing UNT's prominence meant creating important partnerships with numerous high-profile organizations, including the Dallas Cowboys, the PGA of America, Google and Amazon. UNT also increased its national visibility by joining the American Athletic Conference in July 2023 while joining forces with longstanding partner DATCU in a sponsorship deal that renamed the football stadium and made DATCU the official financial institution and exclusive credit union of UNT Athletics and the UNT Alumni Association. Throughout the last decade, students have benefited from more than 17 major building or renovation projects designed to provide enhanced support in academics, athletics and enterprise. These included the opening of the new University Union, two residence halls, the Biomedical Engineering Building, the College of Visual Arts and Design, Texas' largest Advanced Air Mobility Test Center, and numerous athletic facilities through donor support.

Perhaps the most visible building project came when UNT opened Frisco Landing, the first permanent, state-of-the-art building on the UNT at Frisco branch campus. In 2016, UNT launched the new era of higher education by opening an off-site instructional facility at Hall Park in Frisco, a booming city in Collin County. The goal for the branch campus is to close the gap between higher education and industry to create increased opportunities for student learning and pathways for a career-ready workforce, Smatresk says.

"UNT is an engine for social mobility," Smatresk says.

"We're the largest and most comprehensive institution of higher education in the North Texas region and the third largest in Texas. There is no doubt that UNT is paving the way to meet the needs of the entire North Texas region and helping drive Texas' evolving economy, and I am proud to have helped propel our great university forward."

Decade of Transformation: A Timeline


  • Greek Life Center opened
  • Eagle Express fixed-rate tuition plan introduced, the first of many innovative decisions to bolster undergraduate enrollment
  • Class Concierge established to help seniors troubleshoot course scheduling roadblocks that could delay graduation


  • University Union opened
  • Institutes of Research Excellence launched
  • Division of Enrollment created to implement strategic enrollment and recruitment strategies that promote sustainable growth and improve the quality and diversity of the student body
  • UNT Food Pantry created to help students battling food insecurity, and to date, the pantry has served 23,799 students


  • Tier One research status earned from Carnegie Classification
  • Began harnessing technology to increase efficiencies and improve the student experience
  • UNT's service to students in Collin County expanded with the opening of UNT at Frisco


  • Diamond Eagles Society founded by Debbie Smatresk and Cathy Bryce
  • UNT named Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), adding additional programming with future gifts totaling $2M from the Bernard Osher Foundation
  • Intense college-level work began to improve retention and reduce time to degree, paying particular attention to differences in outcomes based on gender and race/ethnicity


  • Super Pit concourse renovated
  • Excellence Scholarships redesigned to become more competitive in the market and promote affordability
  • Sage Hall renovated to become the Academic Success Center and home to student tutoring, advising, resources and support services


  • Center for Agile and Adaptive Additive Manufacturing launched with $10M appropriation from the Texas Legislature
  • Start Green Stay Green initiative launched to ensure financial challenges do not inhibit a student's retention
  • UNT named a Top 10 U.S. Public University on the Rise by College Gazette
  • Welcome Center opened
  • Alumnus G. Brint Ryan gifted $30M: New endowed chair and additional funding for academic program initiatives were made possible through UNT's largest-ever gift, which also named the G. Brint Ryan College of Business


  • Navigate student success and predictive analytics platform launched to increase student retention
  • Best Practice Incentive Program launched for freshmen
  • Transfer Excellence Scholarships announced and overall scholarship funds redistributed to benefit a greater number of students
  • Hispanic-and Minority-Serving Institution designations granted
  • Continued enrollment growth with virtually no disruption during the COVID-19 pandemic because of the strong UNT team working together to serve students and overcome the most challenging times in modern history


  • Launched ELEVAR, Texas' second program for young adults with intellectual disabilities, and in 2023, the program earned the Star Award from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board
  • First-Generation Success Center established
  •, a Spanish-language welcome website, launched, serving more than 8,000 users to date


  • Rose from 118th to 86th in Carnegie Tier One rankings, making UNT the highest-ranked Carnegie institution in North Texas
  • Launched Career Readiness First Year Seminar
  • Named an HSI Fulbright Leader by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs


  • Opened two new career centers: the Satish and Yasmin Gupta Career Center at UNT at Frisco and The Wilson Jones Career Center in the G. Brint Ryan College of Business
  • Opened the first permanent building at the UNT at Frisco branch campus, the first four-year institution in Collin County, offering 27 undergraduate and master's level programs
  • Joined the American Athletic Conference
  • Received highest-ever total of sponsored project awards with more than $86M in funding from national agencies such as the U.S. Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation
  • Launched UNT One Stop to better serve students with admissions and financial needs
  • Proposition 5 overwhelmingly approved by Texas voters to create the Texas University Fund (TUF), a transformational investment in UNT, Texas higher education, and the state's economy, which will help accelerate research innovation, keep top talent in Texas, elevate UNT's national rankings and propel the university to greater national prominence

Continue Reading