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More freshmen are choosing UConn, numbers expected to be up by 14 percent
August 31, 1998

The University is the college of choice for increasing numbers of high-achieving students, as fall freshman enrollment is expected to jump 14 percent at the same time that the quality of the freshman class is up.

The 14 percent increase in the freshman class is more than four times the 3 percent increase in the number of Connecticut high school graduates, says President Philip E. Austin.

"The numbers indicate that Connecticut students recognize the transformation of their public research university into one of the nation's leading institutions. We have begun to turn around the brain drain in Connecticut, which historically has led to an exodus of high-achieving students to out-of-state institutions," Austin says.

"UConn's transformation began with its strategic plan, and includes a renewed emphasis on academic programs, the $1 billion UConn 2000 program, and unprecedented private giving," Austin says. "Clearly, Connecticut's top students are rapidly recognizing the outstanding educational value of their state university."

The quality of the class is up as well. Students who have paid deposits for fall enrollment have SAT scores more than seven points higher on average than students who enrolled last fall - a significant increase, given the size of the freshman class, says Dolan Evanovich, associate vice provost for enrollment management.

The number of freshmen minority students who have paid deposits to the University is up dramatically as well, Evanovich says, noting that the new class will include more than 26 percent more students of color than last year's class.

One of the reasons for the increases in the number and quality of students, says Chancellor Mark Emmert, is that the University has taken steps to enhance its undergraduate experience. Freshmen are spending more time in orientation, are being assigned reading, and are encouraged to participate in a semester-long course called the First Year Experience. In addition, the honors program is being enhanced, classrooms have been renovated, and a new emphasis has been placed on teaching.

"The library, which is being renovated and has been technologically updated, is at the hub of a campus where the emphasis is on undergraduate education, an enhanced honors program, and the recruitment of both top-ranked faculty and top-ranked students," he says.

Jeffrey von Munkwitz Smith, registrar, says he has been tracking the students since June and that the influx of students has been accommodated so well that more incoming freshmen will be getting the foundation English and math courses they need in their first semester than in past years.

Course capacity in the English courses taken by 10 or more freshmen last fall has increased more than 600 seats over last fall; capacity in the math and statistics courses taken by 10 or more freshmen has increased by nearly 450 seats. Several other general education courses taken by large numbers of freshmen - in geography, history, linguistics and the First Year Experience University Learning Skills course, for example - also have significantly increased capacity this year, he says. "Of course, not all the freshmen will get all of the courses they want, but they are, with few exceptions so far, getting full schedules of courses that meet degree requirements," he says.

Many of the students will take courses within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which received from the chancellor extra funds to hire graduate assistants and adjunct faculty to teach additional sections. Some departments increased the capacity of courses slightly, to accommodate more students.

Course availability is tight, but the vast majority of the incoming students are already registered. Efforts are also underway to identify those registered, incoming students who will not be attending, in order to make those seats available much earlier than has been the case in past years.

Von Munkwitz Smith says he has worked closely with CLAS and Susan Steele, vice provost for undergraduate education and instruction, to prepare for the higher numbers of students this fall, and he will continue to monitor course availability.

UConn's popularity this year led the University to close freshman admissions to the Storrs campus in late spring, much earlier than usual.

Although paid deposits for the Storrs campus are up 20.3 percent, universities typically experience a "melt" during the summer, as students make their final choice. But University officials says they still expect an increase in enrollment of 14 percent when classes start September 2, well above the target of a 5 percent increase.

Two members of the incoming freshman class are identical twins, Benjamin and Morgan Brown. Both plan to go to medical school and hope to go out for track. They chose UConn over other colleges that recruited them because of its excellent placement record of pre-med graduates, and top-notch men's track team.

"I chose UConn for many reasons, including the fact that the honors program has a good reputation," says Benjamin, who was accepted at Dartmouth, Emory, Haverford College, Syracuse, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Virginia, Wesleyan and Yale.

Morgan, accepted by Dartmouth, Haverford, Morehouse, Syracuse, the University of Virginia and Wesleyan, says he was attracted to UConn during a tour of the campus.

Benjamin has been awarded a Day of Pride Scholarship, while Morgan has a Leadership Scholarship that provides four years of free tuition.

Incoming freshman Laurie M. Cosker of East Hartford chose UConn over Trinity and Providence Colleges. "Although I had offers from some excellent schools, I chose UConn because of its top-notch biological sciences program," says Cosker, valedictorian of East Hartford High School and recipient of a Dean's Scholarship. "I liked UConn's size -- large enough to offer academic and cultural variety, but small enough to provide individual attention -- and the fact that I would have research opportunities as an undergraduate."

Karen Grava Williams