GC goal is fewer, better students

College plans to drop enrollment by 25 each year

Jenna Ross

More qualified applicants and decreased enrollment targets are shaping the future of the General College.

More students with higher test scores and high school rankings are applying to the General College. At the same time, the college has reduced its enrollment target by 8.6 percent over the next four years, officials said.

Despite these changes, the college will continue to target students who might not have access to the University, said Avelino Mills-Novoa, the college’s assistant dean.

The General College has decreased enrollment from 875 students for this school year to 800 students for the 2005-06 school year, he said.

“Each year, we’re bringing our target down by 25 students,” Mills-Novoa said. “We’re doing it slowly to manage our budget with the loss in tuition revenue.”

The college will pick this decreasing number of enrollees from an ever-growing population.

As the University raises its admission standards and more qualified students apply for admission, the college has seen changes in its applicant pool.

“The obvious impact is that our admission standards at General College have also crept up,” Mills-Novoa said.

Students in this year’s University class have the highest-ever high school class rankings and standardized test scores, said

Office of Admissions director Wayne Sigler.

“They’re simply better prepared,” Sigler said.

The college has found this to be true of its applicants as well, Mills-Novoa said.

As a result, he said, enrollment in many of the college’s lower-level courses has dropped. For example, enrollment in the school’s zero-level math courses – which operate at the same level as high school math classes – has dropped by approximately 25 percent.

“About two years ago, the numbers in our preparatory math courses went down quite a bit,” said Terry Collins, director of academic affairs and curriculum for the General College. “More students are ready to take more advanced math courses.”

Mills-Novoa said despite the increased number of applicants, the college will continue to bring in the same population sample.

The school targets students with low socioeconomic status, first-generation college students and a mix of students from suburban, urban and greater Minnesota.

The college also considers students with extenuating circumstances that could explain low test scores or high school grades, Mills-Novoa said.

“We bring people who other folks consider long shots,” Mills-Novoa said. “But they are hard workers who are committed to succeeding. Those are the kinds of students General College continues to look for.”

When admitting students to any college, the admissions office looks for students who will best utilize the college’s unique teaching and support strategies, Sigler said.

“We look to see if applying students are a good educational match for the school,” he said. “And General College should be an access point for high potential students.”

Mills-Novoa said this access is central to the college’s work.

“Getting a degree from the University of Minnesota is totally different than any other institution in the state,” he said. “And we shouldn’t reserve that privilege for only a certain few.”

General College professor Blong Xiong said although reduced enrollment has raised concerns, it could strengthen the college’s mission.

“If we take a smaller number and do a better job with those students, we can guarantee that those students become successful,” Xiong said. “We can give them even greater individual attention.”

While the General College is decreasing its enrollment targets, the University as a whole is increasing its size.

According to the Office of Admissions, the University will enroll about 100 more students for the 2004-05 school year than 2003-04, bringing the target number to 5,300 students; last year 5,188 students enrolled.

“The University is trying to shape its incoming class. Some colleges will grow significantly, others will not,” Mills-Novoa said. “We’re a college that agreed to reduce its size.”