COLUMBIA, Mo. – University of Missouri enrollment for the incoming freshman class is up more than 14 percent from this time last year, according to the university.

Nearly 4,550 students have already paid deposits for enrollment, which will remain open over the summer, the Columbia Missourian reported .

The forecast figure has surpassed the 2017 first-time student enrollment of fewer than 4,200, but the numbers are still under the peak of nearly 6,200 in 2015.

Officials partly attributed the enrollment decrease to negative publicity during the fall 2015 student protests over racial issues that led to the resignations of a former system president and chancellor. Administrators also cited a decline in high school graduates.

The university has prioritized recruitment since the decline. University leaders aim to increase the annual size of incoming undergraduates to 6,000 by 2023.

The university hired a firm in July to launch a marketing and branding campaign designed to increase the number of applicants. University officials also visited more than 600 high schools statewide and over 450 college fairs across the country.

"We called on our team to evaluate the total recruitment experience, and we've reimagined the path to becoming a Tiger," said Pelema Morrice, vice provost for enrollment management. "I could not be more excited about our new, incoming students. Mizzou has momentum, and we plan to keep that energy going."

The University of Missouri System's Board of Curators will vote this month on raising tuition by more than 2.1 percent to combat budget cuts.