Sunday, March 04, 2001

UC freshman enrollment soars

By Ben L. Kaufman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The University of Cincinnati is experiencing an unusual rush to secure seats in the freshman class of 2001.

        Through February, 1,587 students had accepted UC invitations to enroll this fall and sent in their $50 confirmation checks.

        That's 22.6 percent more than at the same time last year and 55 percent ahead of UC's five-year average for February.

        “Do I have an easy explanation? No,” said James D. Williams, director of UC un dergraduate enrollment services.

        It's most likely a combination of factors, say Mr. Williams and UC's director of admissions, Terry Davis, including:

        • Better recruiting,

        • Online applications,

        • Well-publicized programs that make UC more attractive to resident and commuter students,

        • Automated decision making by 15 colleges, and

        • An uncertain economy, which traditionally favors public colleges close to home.

        Rates were pretty much status quo at other Tristate campuses except at Northern Kentucky University. Officials there said early regis trations for fall are up to 201 this year from 132 at this time last year. The jump may result from an emphasis on telemarketing and recruiting African-Americans and honor students at the Highland Heights campus.

        For Brendan Bruce, UC was his first choice.

        Once the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning said yes, the 18-year-old Anderson High School senior asked his parents to send the $50 to secure his spot. He didn't bother to confirm with his alternative, Miami.

        “I did kind of feel like it would be a lot better if I turned it in early,” he said, hoping this would help him get a better class schedule.

        His plan? To study digital design.

        Sheena Brown, 18 and presi dent of the Anderson High senior class, applied only to UC's McMicken College of Arts and Sciences.

        “I knew I wanted to go there,” she said. Her confirmation check went in shortly after UC's acceptance arrived.

        By contrast, last year's freshmen were dilatory.

        On Feb. 29, 2000, UC had confirmations and nonrefundable checks from 1,294 freshmen. Over the past five years, UC has an average of 1,024 acceptances by the end of February. In all, UC hopes to enroll 5,200 freshmen this fall, compared with 5,000 last fall, which was a 10-year high.

        “Wow,” said Michael Mills, director of admission at Miami University when he heard UC's results.

        “Impressive,” said Ed Eckel, director of admissions for the College of Mount St. Joseph.

        But no one expects everyone who sent in a check to enroll. Mr. Williams said UC usually experiences a 10 percent “melt-away” of those who pay their confirmation fees but don't show in the fall.

        That's no surprise, said the Mount's Mr. Eckel. He said many students confirm at several schools and attend the one that offers the best financial aid package.

        Some schools refund deposits if students withdraw their confirmations by May 1, the national deadline.

        Unlike UC, the Mount has seen a drop of 18 percent in confirmation deposits, compared with February 2000.

        Along with UC's Ms. Davis, Mr. Eckel would not favor any single factor but he said “the wealth factor ... may be creeping into the picture.”

        Mr. Eckel said declines in many stocks and mutual funds may have prompted youngsters to reserve places at relatively cheaper state schools while waiting to see financial aid packages that pricier private colleges are offering.

        Miami University received early acceptances — which commit students to enroll — similar to last year's rate, Mr. Mills said, and he won't know about the rest of the freshman class until May 1.

        Xavier University and Thomas More College reported no significant changes.


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