U appeals to new students

More than 70 percent of 2003 first-year students were in the top quartile of their class.

by Molly Moker

In the past, many Minnesota high school students considered the University to be a “back-up school” – one to attend only if top choices didn’t pan out, Craig Swan, University vice provost for undergraduate education, said.

But, Swan said, the University is gaining more respect from prospective students.

“I think there have been a number of things where we’ve shown improvement,” he said. “And we’re seeing that show up in an increase in terms of number of admissions.”

Since 1990, the average high school rank of entering first-year students on the Twin Cities campus has increased 9 percentage points, according to information compiled by Swan.

More than 70 percent of 2003 first-year students were in the top quartile of their high school classes, Swan said.

This year’s first-year students are on the same path, Swan said, adding the caliber of students and their interest in the University is increasing, he said.

“I consider this a great school,” first-year student Matt Thyne said. “In the past, I’ve heard people call it (a back-up school), but not recently.”

Thyne – from North St. Paul, Minn., – said the University was his first choice, as well as the first choice for many of his friends.

“A lot of people from my high school came here,” he said. “They either went here or to Madison.”

Some students said that at first they were uncertain about the University.

First-year student Ladia Albertson-Junkans said some people questioned her wanting to go to the University.

“Other people who have never been (to the University) asked ‘why did you go there?’ ” she said. “I don’t think a lot of people really see what’s underneath the surface at this school.”

Albertson-Junkans, from Stillwater, Minn., said the University was a back-up school to her.

A cross country runner for the University, Albertson-Junkans said she was recruited by Mississippi State, Columbia University and the University of Kansas.

“I wanted to get away from here and thought there were better schools out there,” she said. “Now looking at it, I think it’s just as good as any other.”

Of the 2003 first-year students, 33 percent were in the top 10 percent of their high school classes. This puts the University directly in the middle of the Big Ten, Swan said.

Of students who are accepted to the University but decline for other colleges, most go to out-of-state schools, Swan said.

More than 20 percent of nonenrolled students admitted to the University went to out-of-state private schools, which were the most popular destinations, followed by the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

To get more qualified students, the University will need to increase scholarships, Swan said.

“We don’t have the scholarship resources that other schools have,” Swan said. “And we need to continue to invest in the quality of the undergraduate student experience.”

Other demographics on campus have changed during the years as well, Swan said.

The number of women has increased on campus, he said. In 1994, 49 percent of first-year University students were female. This year, that number climbed to 56 percent, he said.

This trend parallels what is happening nationally, as the number of women in higher education is expected to grow faster than the number of men, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.

The number of older students has decreased at the University, with undergraduates age 25 and older down from 16 percent in 1996 to 11.5 percent in 2003.

“I’d like to believe this is because we’re helping them graduate when they’re 23 and 24, not 28 and 29,” Swan said.

There were 3,000 undergraduates age 25 and older on campus last fall.

Swan will present the demographics of first-year University students at a Board of Regents meeting today.