Enrollment Figures Show Rise in Academic Excellence

Enrollment Figures Show Rise in Academic Excellence

By Stephen Gawlik
Staff Writer

Recently released figures on enrollment at Boston College provide further evidence of the University's success in attracting students of high academic ability, administrators say.

The 2,103 members of the Class of 2005 achieved a mean combined SAT score of 1300, the highest in BC history, while the middle 50 percent range of combined verbal and math SAT scores is 1240-1380, compared to the 1200-1340 mark for the class of 2000. The yield for this year's class is 33 percent, a 1 percent improvement over last year.

According to the report, 8,776 undergraduates are attending Boston College this semester, with another 224 studying abroad. Graduate students number 4,510, which combined with all part-time students brings the total University enrollment to 14,307 for this fall.

BC's newest freshmen hail from 47 states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the District of Columbia and 27 foreign countries, and approximately 21 percent are AHANA.

Among the University's individual schools, 1,484 freshmen enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences, followed by the Carroll School of Management (396), the Lynch School of Education (160) and Connell School of Nursing (63).

Communication (945) and English (845) are once again the two most popular majors in A&S this semester, followed by psychology (660), political science(646) and history (465). Finance (665) and marketing (429) are the most popular majors in CSOM.

The annual compendium of figures, regarded as an important statistical snap shot of BC, is the culmination of efforts by several University offices and departments to confront factors that directly or indirectly affect the University's enrollment. Some factors are literally in BC's backyard, such as local rental housing prices, but others - especially unprecedented and far-reaching events such as those of Sept. 11 - defy prediction.

"Trying to understand what the story is going to be each year is quite a major undertaking," said Dean for Enrollment Management Robert S. Lay. "Frankly, it's different every year."

For example, Lay explained, fluctuations in the price of rental apartments in Boston and Brookline have direct implications for the appeal of on-campus housing among students. The number of students who opt to live on campus presents the University with a range of variables, he said, such as the number of meals that have to be served in dining halls, and the availability of study space in libraries and workout space in the Flynn Recreation Complex.

An equally important task, said Lay, is the gathering of qualitative data about people's perceptions of BC, both on and off campus.

"We have to constantly talk to people," he said. "We are trying to get a realistic view of how people see Boston College. Perceptions are reality in what we're doing."

BC's emergence as a nationally recognized institution of academic excellence means administrators have to look beyond New England to assess national trends - as well as other competitive universities' responses to them - and what bearing they have on a student's decision to enroll.

"We need to see how BC fits in to the larger picture," said Lay.

Some trends loom larger than others. BC administrators and their counterparts at other institutions are keeping a wary eye on a slowing economy and the implications for families' financial resources.

"Because our goal is for students to come to BC for four years, we realize we have to provide a safety net to families in need so that can happen," said Lay. "But that also has implications for our long-term financial planning.

"We don't ever want to over-react to some trends, while at the same time we've got to be able to react to trends that will affect us," said Lay.

Lay credits the communication between the offices of the Academic Vice President, Undergraduate Admission, Student Services and Financial Strategies, who work together closely and share potentially useful information.

Director of Undergraduate Admission John L. Mahoney Jr. and 15 Admission staff members spend much of the autumn visiting high schools throughout the United States and meeting with prospective students and their parents. These encounters provide a useful, first-hand view of the issues, interests and concerns that are foremost among families of college students, he said.

Not surprisingly, Mahoney says, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and subsequent events are seen as likely to affect this year's admissions cycle. While he has not yet seen an immediate change in students' attitudes, he has noticed that some parents seem more inclined to keep their sons and daughters closer to home.

"I don't think there's any denying there's more uncertainty out there," said Mahoney.

"However, there is no way of predicting the effect that the events of Sept. 11 will have until after Nov. 1. Thus far, in my travels, the response I have received towards BC has been overwhelmingly positive. We'll have to wait and see."


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