UCF on Monday will welcome the largest and most diverse student body in its history, including a freshman class with a university-record GPA.

Enrollment is expected to top 66,000 students, and the fall freshman class has an average incoming GPA of 4.06. These milestones, based on the latest preliminary figures, further prove that a university can be both big and great.

“Yes, we are big – and our growth is no accident. We have increased student access because we know that nothing transforms lives so much as a college education,” said UCF President John C. Hitt. “We also know that being big is not enough – we must demand excellence.”

Among the incoming freshman class are some of the nation’s top students, including 88 National Merit Scholars who scored in the top 1 percent on the Preliminary SAT test. UCF ranks 11th among U.S. public universities for the number of National Merit Scholars.

In addition, the freshman class posted an average Redesigned SAT score of 1318 and a record average ACT score of 28.1.

UCF’s enrollment not only has grown in size and excellence, but it also has become more diverse. A record 45 percent of current students are minorities, and 25 percent are the first in their families to attend college. UCF’s affordability – ranked as one of the most affordable universities in the nation by Kiplinger and The Princeton Review – has helped open the doors to a college education for more students.

Also starting this semester are 135 new faculty members. Faculty last year secured $145.8 million in research funding, and help drive student success. For instance, they’ve helped coach UCF’s student computer programming team that this year placed No. 1 in the country and No. 13 in the world at the International Collegiate Programming Contest. They also help about 15,000 UCF students graduate each year – the most of any U.S. university.

This year marks 54 years since UCF’s founding, and 49 years since the first classes began.