CSE Dean’s List explodes

The growth of CSE’s Dean’s List is outpacing enrollment rates.

by Jeff Hargarten


Luke Balhorn was delighted to make the Dean’s List in the University of Minnesota’s College of Science and Engineering. He was far from alone.

Balhorn, a materials science freshman, is among a record number of students on CSE’s Dean’s List — a steady increase that has outpaced the college’s enrollment and puzzled administrators.

The list recognizes students with a 3.666 GPA or higher each semester. While CSE’s enrollment has increased, the number of Dean’s List students has grown faster than its rate of incoming freshmen, said Paul Strykowski, the college’s associate dean of student programs.

The number of Dean’s List students last semester jumped to approximately 900 — up from 800 in 2010 and 700 in 2009. The percentage of CSE students on the list steadily increased from about 15 percent five years ago to nearly 20 percent in 2011.

CSE isn’t certain why the list is growing so quickly, especially since its grading practices and curriculum haven’t changed.

But there is a strong correlation between a larger Dean’s List and higher ACT scores among incoming CSE freshmen, Strykowski said.

Balhorn had been on similar lists in high school and continued to excel in college, battling through 17 credits, including an honor’s calculus course last semester.

Lisa Bailey, an undecided freshman, was also on CSE’s list after conquering difficult physics and chemistry classes, something she viewed as a “great accomplishment.”

Their academic successes correlate with a rise in CSE’s composite ACT scores, which increased from 28.5 in 2007 to about 30.5 in 2011, according to the college’s data.

This year’s graduating class had some of the highest ACT scores as incoming freshmen in 2008, while about 57 percent of grades given at the University were A’s.

In comparison, the University’s College of Biological Sciences saw an increase in its Dean’s List for fall 2011, jumping from about 19 percent to about 26 percent in the same five-year period, according to the college’s data and enrollment numbers from the Office of Institutional Research.

The University’s College of Liberal Arts has consistently hovered around having 19 percent of its students on the Dean’s List and saw a slight dip last semester, according to the college’s data. The University’s College of Education and Human Development had about 20 percent of its students make the list last semester.

While CSE hadn’t intended to boost the number of students on the Dean’s List, Strykowski wasn’t surprised by the increase since the college has been pushing for stronger academics among incoming students.

“They’re coming in smarter these days,” he said.