Officials don’t plan to increase enrollment

by Paul Sand

Despite a 21 percent jump in first-year applications to the University for fall 2003, officials said they don’t plan to raise the number of students admitted.

The increase – reported by the institution in early January – brings total applications to the University to more than 16,000. In 2002, the University received more than 13,000 applications and admitted approximately 5,200 first-year and 2,000 transfer students.

Wayne Sigler, office of admissions director, said he might meet in February with the associate deans to discuss possible changes, but for now he expects enrollment numbers to remain unchanged.

Sigler said the admissions department works closely with the eight University colleges that enroll first-year students to determine the number of students admitted and the resources available to them, including academic advising and class availability.

The College of Liberal Arts is the largest of the eight colleges that allow first-year enrollment.

Arlene Carney, CLA associate dean, said the college’s applications are at an all-time high, but enrollment will remain at around 2,500 new first-year students. She said the college has hired more staff, including academic advisers, to handle any possible increase.

“We’re geared up (to do) everything we can possibly do to help get students in the courses they want,” Carney said.

Statewide, applications to public universities and colleges have increased. The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system has seen a first-year student application increase, including a 56 percent jump at Minnesota State University, Mankato and a 38 percent increase at St. Cloud State University.

Sigler credits a higher-than-expected interest in the University to its improved undergraduate life. He added that the slumping economy means more students are seeking education at less expensive public institutions.

“There’s no question that cost is a significant factor in the college choice process,” he said.

Sigler said that admission to the University is increasingly competitive and the University’s applicant pool has improved steadily.

But at least one state lawmaker, Sen. Bob Kierlin, R-Winona, said he believes the increased demand to attend the University may lead to a more selective admissions process and make the University inaccessible for some Minnesotans.

Kierlin said if the University continues to accept only applicants with the highest academic standings, he fears some of the state’s high school students will be left behind.

“My basic view is that public universities were set up to provide access to all Minnesotans,” he said.

Sigler said the University admits the strongest applicants to boost graduation and retention rates.

“(Admissions policies) are designed to keep students in once they are enrolled,” he said.

In August 2002, the University switched from an admissions process that looked mainly at an applicant’s standardized test scores to a more holistic approach.

This approach – used by all Big Ten schools except Iowa – takes into account not only an applicant’s standardized test scores, but also community involvement and steady academic improvement.

Sigler said the switch allows the University access to more well-rounded applicants and applicants to be judged on a more qualitative basis.

The admissions department received no additional funds when they switched to the holistic-style admissions, and the influx of applications has been putting a strain on admissions staffers, Sigler said.

To individually review 16,000 applications for fall admittance, the department is reallocating internal funds for overtime pay for its admissions counselors, Sigler said.

Paul Sand welcomes comments at [email protected]