Undergraduate enrollment down

This school year, academic enrollment dropped 1.6 percent but it was not due to factors such as selectivity or the nation’s recession.

The reason for the decrease is simple. The fall 2005 entering class was 2,276 students, which is approximately 276 more than the number of incoming freshman that the university aims to accept every year. The number of incoming freshman for the three years since 2005 has been 2,062, 1,991 and 2,010, respectively.

Since the majority of fall 2005’s entering class, the class of 2009, graduated this past spring, it is only a natural that undergraduate  enrollment has fallen this year.

“It was a ‘blip’ in the system,” said Mary Sapp, assistant vice president for planning and institutional research. “Although it wasn’t like we opened the flood gates and let in a lot of unqualified students.”

Thomas J. LeBlanc, the executive vice president and provost of UM, was appointed in the summer of 2005. Since his arrival at the university, he has committed to keeping undergraduate enrollment as close as possible to 2,000 entering students per year.

UM aims to have an undergraduate enrollment between 9,500 and 10,000 students. Currently, there are 9,855 degree-seeking and an additional 515 non degree-seeking undergraduate students.

According to Sapp, the last 10 years have seen a 78 percent increase in applications to the university. For the entering class of 1999, there were 12,265 applications submitted, compared to 21,845 applications submitted for the entering class of 2009.

“Every year the number of applications have been higher than the last, SAT scores have been going up steadily and graduation and retention rates have also been going up,”  Sapp said.

The primary advantage in having a larger university enrollment is the money that can be brought in from tuition. With the current state of the economy, tuition costs are a primary factor in the college decision process. At this stage of the application process for next year’s incoming class, the number of applications is still up– about 75 students more, according to Sapp.

“I don’t think that the economic crisis would defer students from applying to UM,” junior Alexis Branca said. “I think where the university could run into problems is at crunch time in April when prospective students commit to a school that is cheaper and maybe one that’s not private.”

The university aims to continue raising UM’s standards of admission, with each incoming class having a higher GPA and higher test scores than the previous. There are no plans to change the magic number of 2,000 incoming students.

“It’s a balancing act– having enough students to have the tuition income to pay the bills, yet not overstraining the infrastructure,” Sapp said.

Meredith Reilly may be contacted at mreilly@themiamihurricane.com.