Recruitment efforts yield a class of high-achieving students
For the last four years, higher education has faced enormous challenges. Although parents and prospective students still value the college experience, many wonder whether they are financially able to take on the debt loads often associated with an undergraduate degree. Still others are worried about budget cuts that have dogged many institutions, both public and private. They see tuition costs skyrocketing at the same time that resources for programs and people have declined dramatically.
The University has addressed those concerns, and prepared for its sustainability, by investing vigorously in its programs, boosting its financial aid options and keeping tuition increases to a minimum. For the Office of Undergraduate Admission, that has resulted in several years of recruitment success. The 2010–11 year was no exception.
“The enrollment story continues to be a very, very good one,” said Tom Willoughby, vice chancellor for enrollment. “DU continues to be desired in the marketplace by more and more high school graduates, and especially graduates with strong academic records.”
Once again, applications to the University increased, this year by 15 percent. The Office of Admission received 14,877 applications, compared to 12,462 last year. Of these, 10,504 were deemed complete. About 68 percent of students with completed applications received offers of admission, and the University enrolled 1,243 students in fall 2011.
As pleased as he is by growth in the number of applicants, Willoughby is especially delighted by the caliber of students now applying to DU. “We saw an increase again this year in the academic profile of the class,” Willoughby said. “This year’s mean GPA is 3.71, compared to 3.7 last year. The mean SAT score is 1219 compared to 1207 last year, and the mean ACT score is 27.7 compared to 27 last year.”
Thanks to the growing geographic diversity of the applicant pool, the Office of Admission was able to increase the number of out-of-state applicants offered admission. In 2009–10, out-of-state students accounted for 57 percent of those enrolled. In 2010–11, that will jump to 63 percent.
“We’re trying to grow our out-of-state population to push our national reach,” Willoughby explained.
Applications from overseas also were up, so much so that international students will make up 9.4 percent of the incoming class, compared to 7.5 percent in the previous year. Last year, 17 countries were represented in the first-year class. In 2011, 22 countries will be represented.
Willoughby attributes DU’s recruitment success to a number of factors. That so many high-achieving students now apply to the University is due, in no small part, to DU’s rising reputation and to increases in financial aid funding. DU is offering more merit- and need-based scholarships, making it competitive with some of the country’s more prestigious schools.
“Even though we saw a tuition increase this year, the University’s commitment to financial aid increased equally,” Willoughby said, noting that the Ascend fundraising campaign, launched in fall 2010, will help DU meet more of its students’ demonstrated need in the future. That, in turn, will make the institution increasingly attractive to the best and brightest applicants.
“Right now, we’re meeting 87 percent of our students’ demonstrated need,” he explained. “The most competitive schools can meet 100 percent of their students’ demonstrated need because of the endowments they have. The Ascend campaign will help us close that gap.”
The ongoing admissions success story is also the result of many things the University has done right over the years, Willoughby added. Prospective students and their parents appreciate DU’s impressive facilities, its commitment to internationalization and its continuing investment in the academic program.
“This year in particular, even though the economy is still challenging, families that had the ability to pay for a quality education were selecting schools like DU where there was greater assurance and predictability in the experience their students would have,” he said. “Public schools have had to cut back a lot, and the experience is much more unpredictable.”
DU, on the other hand, has offered steady improvements to its education experience. “We’ve maintained and even improved class size, added 15 new faculty positions last fall and another 23 coming this fall, so our faculty-to-student ratio for undergraduates is 9:1,” Willoughby said. “These are the things that people notice, and they’re willing to pay for the difference.”