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Freshmen enrollment drops slightly

By Paige Pearcy, Daily News Editor
and Peter Shahin, Daily Staff Reporter
Published October 22, 2012

Though a record number of students applied to the University this year, the freshmen class that started school in September is the smallest it has been in years, according to the University’s enrollment data released Tuesday.

The freshman class is the smallest since 2008 with 6,171 students, 80 students fewer than last year’s class and 325 fewer than 2010’s class, which boasted a University record 6,496 students. However, the decrease in students is still higher than University’s target number of 5,960 students for an incoming class size, University Provost Philip Hanlon said in an interview last month.

“The applicant pool among non-residents has ballooned,” Hanlon said. “In fact, we expect the applicants for residents to go down as the demographics of the state shift.”

The freshmen class represents 1,900 high schools, 46 states and 60 countries. At press time, the numbers of freshmen from in-state and out-of-state were not available.

A total of 43,426 students are enrolled in the University’s programs. The total enrollment at the University set a record high this year with a 1.7-percent increase from last year, marking the fourth consecutive annual increase.

Applications also increased to a record-high with 42,544 submissions, surpassing last year’s record by 7.5 percent. This spike is generally attributed to the University’s adoption of the Common Application, which two years ago.

Ted Spencer, the University’s associate vice provost and executive director of undergraduate admissions, said in a press release that the University strives to stabilize enrollment each year in order to maximize resource use.

“This is the second consecutive year that we have intentionally admitted fewer students to our entering class,” Spencer said. “Our goal is to maintain fairly stable enrollment numbers overall. This ensures that enrollment is scaled to resources, which optimizes the educational environment for all our students.”

The entering class is almost identical in gender breakdown to last year’s demographics, with 49.96 percent of the students identifying as female and 50.04 percent of the students identifying as male.

The number of underrepresented minority students fell in this year’s freshman class by half a percentage point from the previous entering class, with 10 percent of the class identifying as an underrepresented minority student.

However, the number of students who identify as African American on campus increased this year in both undergraduate and graduate enrollment, at more than a percentage point for a total of 5.9 percent.

Hanlon explained the University’s goals for size of the student body are not based solely on the incoming class, but attempt to account for the number of continuing students and transfers as well.

Using the number of student-earned credit hours, the University estimates the number that will graduate in December, and models enrollment in the spring to reassess its goals. Over time, Hanlon said the University aims to decrease the number of students from more than 27,000 to about 26,500.

“Ultimately I think it will help with some of the congestion in some of the concentrations,” Hanlon said. “If we ratchet down the overall number of undergrads some, there will be less congestion, less instances when a student can’t get into a class they want to get into and the bus system will be less crowded.”

Hanlon said that though the College of Engineering and the School of Kinesiology saw the greatest increase in applications , the number of students admitted to those colleges was not altered.

“Applicant numbers have gone up, selectivity has improved and the yields have gone up,” Hanlon said.

He attributed growth in the University’s size to an unexpected growth in the yield — the number of students accepting admission out of the acceptances extended. Since the target number is based off the previous year’s yield, the data compounds and continues to increase; generating an unexpected increase in admissions numbers.

“We’ve grown by accident,” Hanlon explained.


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