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Updated 11:30 AM October 27, 2003



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Applications, enrollment set new record

Student enrollment at the Ann Arbor campus has topped 39,000 for the first time and set a record for the seventh year in a row, according to official figures released Oct. 21. Total enrollment for fall 2003 is 39,031, up from 38,972 a year ago.

The incoming freshman class of 5,553 just missed setting a record—one that occurred in 1999—but the University received more applications for spring, summer and fall freshman admission than ever before in its history: 25,943. The volume of applications was about 3 percent ahead of those for 2002 admission, and mirrors national trends, Provost Paul N. Courant says.

"In the face of increasing demand, we are continuing to teach more students than ever before," Courant says. "We've worked hard this year to invest in the resources—such as expanding the number of sections of high-demand freshman courses—to be able to meet this demand and to offer a high-quality educational experience to an increasing number of students.

"Our schools and colleges have accomplished this despite the severe budget constraints that we experienced this year. They did this by focusing the budget cuts on less essential services and programs, and by concentrating their resources on their core academic priorities."

The strongest enrollment growth occurred this year in the School of Education, School of Information, College of Pharmacy and at the undergraduate level in the School of Nursing.

Courant says the new undergraduate admissions process, which did not affect the 2003 enrollment figures but will be in place for students applying for 2004, should allow the University to continue to enroll a student body that is both diverse and academically outstanding. He says the University actively is seeking applicants for 2004 and will step up its outreach to prospective students and counselors this year to make sure that message of welcome is understood widely.

In the total student body, which includes undergraduate, graduate and professional students, underrepresented minorities make up 13.8 percent, up from 13.6 percent last year. By racial group, enrollment percentages are: African American, 8.1 percent (unchanged); Hispanic American, 4.9 percent (up from 4.7 percent); Native American, 0.8 percent (unchanged); Asian American, 13.4 percent (up from 12.9 percent); and white, 66.3 percent (down from 66.7 percent). A smaller percentage of students (6.4 percent) listed other racial categories or did not indicate their race than last year (6.8 percent).

Although there is stable enrollment among underrepresented minorities in both the undergraduate student body and in the total campus enrollment, administrators note that freshman enrollment among African American, Hispanic American and Native American students declined from 2002 levels.

Enrollment percentages for the various racial groups are calculated using an adjusted enrollment of 33,516, which represents U.S. residents and permanent resident aliens enrolled in degree-granting programs.

Lester Monts, senior vice provost for academic affairs, says the enrollment figures for first-year minority students are within the normal range of ups and downs that have occurred in the freshman population during the past five years. The University has no quotas, he explains, and therefore the specific enrollment figures for each year's incoming class are dependent upon the demographics and relative qualifications of each year's applicant pool. Fluctuations from year to year are expected, he says.

"Enrollment numbers are dependent upon two factors: recruitment and retention," he says. "Once we succeed in recruiting students of color, we must also achieve a high rate of retention. One of the encouraging things about this year's data is that even with some declines on the recruiting end, our total enrollment for minorities was stable or even grew for some groups. That tells me we're doing a better job on the retention of students of color than in the past."

Still, Monts says he is watching the first-year enrollment numbers closely to spot trends, and to ensure that the University is doing all it can to encourage applications from minority students and to convert admitted students into enrolled students.

"The Michigan affirmative action cases were headed to the Supreme Court during the months in 2002 and 2003 when students were applying to the University and making their enrollment decisions," Monts says. "At the time, there was a lot of concern that U-M might lose these cases and that a loss might have a negative effect on the diversity of our student body and on our campus climate. I believe the uncertainty of the lawsuits may have had a chilling effect on many prospective students last year."

Monts says the University puts a lot of time and energy into outreach and recruiting, including efforts to encourage minority students to apply and enroll. These include an active Detroit office, ambassador programs connecting current U-M students with prospective minority students, college fairs and planning workshops at high schools around the state, and a Spring Welcome Day for admitted minority students and their families.

International student enrollment has continued to increase at both the undergraduate and graduate student levels, despite stricter requirements for obtaining visas. A total of 4,348 international students are enrolled for fall 2003, up 87 (about 2 percent) from last year.

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