Number of U applicants higher than ever

The class of 2014 was larger than original projections.

Evelina Smirnitskaya

As this year’s first-year students are settling into their first college classes, the University of Minnesota is already predicting how many students will enroll for next year.
Last week, the University announced that it received 38,000 applicants for the incoming freshman class of 2010. This year’s applicant pool grew by 9 percent and has almost doubled since 2004.
But only a small fraction of those prospective students were admitted, and even fewer decided to enroll. The University’s challenge is estimating that number in advance.
Enrollment management is becoming even more complicated as the number of applicants grows. It means more processing for the Office of Admissions and takes more time.
 Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education Robert McMaster and Provost Tom Sullivan work together with the collegiate deans and University Office of Admissions to figure out the number of open spots. The numbers are based on how many students were admitted in the past and on the individual needs of each college.
Admitting too few students will mean a decrease in the revenue the University gets from tuition. However, enrolling too many will decrease the University’s ability to provide adequate housing as well as advisory and academic services to students.
“The major driver is the capacity of the faculty to deliver the curriculum,” McMaster said.
The process begins in September when the initial numbers are set, followed by numerous adjustments throughout the year. As applications are submitted and students are admitted, the numbers are continuously fine-tuned in order to hit the set target until the cut-off date for enrollment confirmation in early May.
This year’s number was set at 5,230, but the current count is closer to 5,300. This difference is rather common, McMaster said. Last year saw 5,400 new students — 100 more than projected. As students tend to move around during the first few weeks of classes, the final numbers are not known until 14 days after thebeginning of term.
The University wants to maintain class metrics and ethnic and geographic diversity, while still catering to in-state students. The number of students enrolled at the University from Minnesota averages about 65 percent, McMaster said.
McMaster said the University is “focusing on the student as a customer,” which is making it more competitive nationally.
For the University of Wisconsin, the preliminary number of new applicants posted by the Office of Admissions rose by 667 from 2009, but has leveled off in the past few years.
Despite the accelerated growth of applicants, McMaster doesn’t believe there will be a significant growth in number of first-year students next year. But the Office of Undergraduate Education is examining enrollment management further.
A new enrollment management committee, of which McMaster is co-chairman, is charged with figuring out what direction the University wants to take with admissions and class sizes. The committee’s final report will come out in May.