Coleman: 'U' must work to better control freshman class size

By Kyle Swanson, Daily News Editor
Published September 13, 2010

University President Mary Sue Coleman said in an interview last week she hopes admission numbers will be better controlled next year to ensure that every student can have a quality Michigan experience.

The University received a record number of applications last year, with 30,947 students applying for admission, according to the Office of Admission's website. Of those students, 15,436 students had been offered admission as of June 1. And while Coleman said having so many students interested in attending the University is a “good problem to have,” she added that University officials need a better estimate of how many students will choose to attend the University when making offers of admission.

“We don’t want this,” Coleman said in an interview last week. “This isn’t a planned increase in the student population.”

And while the University’s official enrollment numbers won’t be publicly released until next month, officials expect there to be 6,300 new students in the freshman class. If the numbers hold true, that would represent an increase of approximately 300 students from last year’s freshman class.

According to Coleman, that increase is problematic because larger incoming classes means that University officials must scramble to ensure each student gets the same experience and access to resources.

“I was so thrilled that the whole group that has to deal with academic services, the housing, everything that you have to do for a large group, really worked well together and we were able to accommodate people,” Coleman said.

However, rushing at the last minute to the convert rooms of Oxford Houses isn’t an experience Coleman wants to relive next year. In fact, Coleman said she’d like to begin shrinking the size of the University.

“We’ve been working on trying to shrink a little bit and some years we’ve been more successful then others in holding the line,” Coleman said. “I mean, I’m thrilled that so many people want to come to the University of Michigan, but we also have to be very cognizant of the experience students get and we want that to be a good experience.”

But holding that line might be more difficult in light of the University’s switch to the Common Application this year. The University is already ahead in the number of applications it has received when compared to those received at this time last year.

“We think it’s due to perhaps the ease of looking at Michigan because of the Common Application,” Coleman explained.

Moving to the Common Application could also shift the demographic of which students choose to apply, which could also alter the yield ratio — determined by comparing the number of students offered admission against the number that ultimately ends up enrolling — more than usual and in less predictable ways.

“We will have an additional challenge I believe next year because of the Common Application and the fact that we’re already experiencing a larger number of applications than we did last year at this time,” Coleman admitted.

“We are planning to try to tighten up again,” Coleman continued. “This was not anticipated; this is not a planned increase in the size of the undergraduate population.”

However, Coleman said the University’s ability to shrink the size of its incoming freshman class will continue to depend on the quality of the applicant pool and the University’s ability to accurately predict the yield.

“We have this process with the holistic review where we really try to give every student a chance,” she said.

Coleman’s comments echo what she told The Michigan Daily in July. Then she said she wanted University officials to more accurately predict the number of students who would end up enrolling in next year’s class.

“We need to sort of look at our models again and figure out how we’re going to manage this again because next year when we go to the Common Application everybody predicts that we’re going to go up again (in applications),” she told the Daily in July. “We’re going to test Ted Spencer’s ability to build this class because you know it’s going to be a big challenge.”