Undergrad enrollment gets a boost

The U will increase its undergraduate numbers to remain competitive.

Dina Elrashidy

The University of Minnesota plans to admit about 1,000 more undergraduate students next year âÄî the majority of them to science, technology, engineering and math programs (STEM).

The plan is to increase enrollment from its current level of 30,610 to between 32,000 and 33,000, said Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education Robert McMaster. 

The University is targeting students in STEM fields, âÄúwhere the demand has been steady and significant,âÄù according to the enrollment plan report.

From 2005 to 2011, applications to the College of Science & Engineering  and the College of Biological Sciences   rose by about 240 percent, according to University data.

Because of the rising demand, McMaster said the University will admit 100 more freshmen to CBS, CSE and also in the School of Nursing. 

The University is aiming to continue increase its entrance standards by raising the average ACT score from 27.5 to 28, McMaster said. It will also increase the percentage of new students who are in the top 10 percent of their class from 45 percent to 55 percent.

âÄúAside from Carleton College  and Macalester College,  we probably are the most difficult to get into in the state of Minnesota,âÄù McMaster said of the new standards.

In 2012, the number of transfer students admitted will be decreased in order to maintain a 2:1 ratio of freshmen to transfer students. Though freshmen enrollment has been consistent in the past decade, McMaster said transfer student numbers have varied greatly, and the University is looking to set a standard.

There were approximately 1,900 new transfer students in 2004, according to the University. That number rose to 2,780 in 2009.

 âÄúWe havenâÄôt been particularly thoughtful about transfer students on campus,âÄù McMaster said. âÄúWe think we could perhaps improve the student experience by decreasing the number of transfer students,âÄù McMaster said.

Approximately 75 percent of transfer students come from within Minnesota, according to University data. Seven of the top 10 colleges that transfers come from are community colleges.

Prioritizing programs in grad schools

While undergraduate enrollment is set to increase, graduate enrollment will be scrutinized more closely. Money will be shifted away from programs that arenâÄôt pulling their weight, said Assistant Vice Provost of Graduate Education Kathryn VandenBosch. Some may be eliminated altogether.

The greatest increases in graduate enrollment in the past decade have been in the areas of health, business and engineering. The steepest enrollment cuts have been made in agriculture and liberal arts programs like foreign language, literature, linguistics and gender studies.

âÄúWe are overextended,âÄù said VandenBosch of graduate program resources.

A program that doesnâÄôt measure up or isnâÄôt competitive or critical to the economy of Minnesota will either be restructured or eliminated VandenBosch said.

Provost Tom Sullivan  said this process has already begun. Graduate enrollment from 2010 to 2011 decreased by nearly 400.

As to the fate of the faculty in programs facing cuts, Sullivan said that they have been and will continue to shift to teaching at the undergraduate level.

That shift will also help support the plans to increase enrollment at the undergraduate level, Sullivan said.