In this 2011 file picture, students attend graduation ceremonies at the University of Alabama, the fastest-growing state flagship in the country. (AP/Butch Dill)

The University of Central Florida has grown 90 percent since the turn of the century in undergraduate enrollment, The Washington Post reported this week, rocketing past the state flagship university in size and becoming one of the largest universities in the country.

This fall UCF is projected to have 54,000 undergrads and another 9,000 graduate students.

[Is bigger better? UCF storms higher ed.]

So how fast are the 50 state flagships growing?

Below is a Post analysis of federal data based on fall 2013 enrollment. Schools are ranked in order of percentage growth since fall 2000. One takeaway is that growth varies significantly even among elite schools. The University of Wisconsin-Madison grew 3 percent; the University of Virginia grew 17 percent.

Another is that some schools are pursuing huge expansions, particularly southern flagships in Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and South Carolina, all with growth rates higher than 50 percent. ‘Bama was the fastest-growing, at 92 percent. Out-of-state enrollment is a big factor too: At each of the four fastest-growing schools, nearly or more than half of undergrads are from out of state. Of course, that appears to be a revenue strategy too: Tuition is far higher for out-of-state students than for state residents.

Asked why the University of Maryland at College Park grew 8 percent (ranking 42nd), U-Md. spokesman Brian Ullmann said:

“The focus at the University of Maryland has not been on overall enrollment growth, but instead on strategic growth in targeted STEM [science, technology, engineering, mathematics] fields and improvement in our retention and graduation rates.  Since 2000, our first-year retention rate has increased from 90.7% to 95.7%  and our 6-year graduation rate has increased from 63.6% (1994 cohort) to 84.6% (2008 cohort).  Both numbers rank U-Md. among the best universities in the country.”

What’s certain is that in Maryland and most other states, seats for in-state applicants are in high demand. Residents often complain to state legislators and governors when highly qualified students are turned away from the flagships.

1. University of Alabama: 29,440 (92%)
2. University of Mississippi: 16,677 (74%)
3. University of Arkansas: 21,009 (68%)
4. University of South Carolina-Columbia: 24,180 (58%)
5. University of Nevada-Reno: 15,694 (55%)
6. University of Missouri-Columbia: 26,928 (49%)
7. University of South Dakota: 7,633 (48%)
8. University of Oregon: 20,797 (48%)
9. West Virginia University: 22,757 (47%)
10. University of New Mexico-Main Campus: 22,416 (37%)
11. University of Connecticut: 18,032 (36%)
12. University of North Dakota: 11,724 (29%)
13. University of Kentucky: 21,441 (27%)
14. University of Vermont: 10,912 (27%)
15. University of Alaska Fairbanks: 7,989 (26%)
16. Indiana University-Bloomington: 36,862 (25%)
17. University of Rhode Island: 13,354 (25%)
18. University of Utah: 24,492 (24%)
19. University of Hawaii at Manoa: 14,499 (24%)
20. Ohio State University-Main Campus: 44,201 (24%)
21. Rutgers University-New Brunswick: 33,901 (21%)
22. University of Arizona: 31,670 (20%)
23. University at Buffalo: 19,831 (19%)
24. University of Wyoming: 10,117 (18%)
25. University of Oklahoma-Norman: 20,985 (18%)
26. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: 18,370 (18%)
27. University of Virginia: 16,087 (17%)
28. Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus: 40,085 (17%)
29. University of Massachusetts-Amherst: 22,134 (16%)
30. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor: 28,283 (16%)
31. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: 32,695 (15%)
32. University of Montana: 12,254 (15%)
33. University of Delaware: 18,487 (15%)
34. University of Washington-Seattle: 29,756 (15%)
35. University of California-Berkeley: 25,951 (14%)
36. University of Iowa: 21,974 (14%)
37. University of Maine: 9,182 (12%)
38. University of Colorado Boulder: 26,096 (11%)
39. University of Idaho: 9,540 (9%)
40. University of Georgia: 26,278 (9%)
41. University of Minnesota-Twin Cities: 34,449 (8%)
42. University of Maryland-College Park: 26,658 (8%)
43. University of Nebraska-Lincoln: 19,376 (8%)
44. University of Tennessee-Knoxville: 21,182 (6%)
45. University of New Hampshire-Main Campus: 12,516 (5%)
46. University of Texas at Austin: 39,979 (5%)
47. University of Wisconsin-Madison: 30,728 (3%)
48. University of Florida: 33,168 (1%)
49. University of Kansas: 19,217 (-2%)
50. Louisiana State University: 24,923 (-5%)

Notes: What constitutes a flagship sometimes varies from one state to another. This table relies on a list of flagships the College Board uses in annual reports on tuition. There are no ties in the ranking, but for simplicity percentages are rounded.

By the way, why did LSU shrink? F. King Alexander, president of the Louisiana flagship, has a ready answer. It has to do with a certain hurricane that struck the Gulf Coast in 2005. “It’s called Katrina,” Alexander said. “We’re still moving back up toward the pre-Katrina years. We just had a ton of people who left the state.”