Class Of 2000 Is Distinguished By More Than
Just Its Name

By Sean Smith
Staff Writer

Much significance has been attached to the Class of 2000 nationally, but at Boston College the distinctiveness of the entering freshman class goes beyond its name. Administrators say it is one of the strongest student groups in the University's history.

The class, currently between 2,250 and 2,300 students, is larger in sheer numbers than those in recent years due to an unexpected rise in the University's yield. What administrators consider more significant, however, is that the class represents a new high watermark of academic quality and preparedness. Boston College is attracting more students from across the country, administrators say, especially the highest achieving ones.

"Each year, I remark on the strength of the incoming freshman class, but each year it is undeniable," said Academic Vice President and Dean of Faculties William B. Neenan, SJ. "However, this year, the evidence clearly suggests this class is arguably the strongest to ever arrive at the Heights."

"We felt back in the spring that this would be a good year," Dean for Enrollment Management Robert Lay said in an interview last week. "We saw an increase of 8 percent in the number of prospective students who expressed interest in Boston College, and it was very encouraging to see the number of applications remain virtually the same from the record 16,680 set last year. Most of all, our perception was that the quality of the applicant pool was definitely up and this has proven to be true."

Lay points to the middle 50 percent range of SAT results for the Class of 2000, which show combined scores between 1200 and 1340. While exact comparisons with previous years are difficult because of a new scale implemented by the College Board, these statistics nonetheless represent a substantial increase in academic quality.

"We have a freshman class in which 75 percent scored 1200 or higher on the SATs," he said. "That is a definite mark of academic excellence."

Lay further notes a 31 percent increase in freshmen taking successful qualifying advanced placement exams as "a sign of better preparation [for college work], as well as quality."

The Class of 2000, which is 53 percent female, includes students representing 48 states and 32 foreign countries; 26 percent are from Massachusetts. The University nearly matched its record for the number of students from Jesuit high schools, Lay noted, which increased by 6 percent to 172.

AHANA students comprise almost 18 percent of the class and African-American students number 103, Lay said, one of the highest totals of enrolled African-Americans in University history. Three of this year's 11 new Presidential Scholars - who rank in the top 1 percent of college applicants nationally - are AHANA, Lay said.

Enrollment is "generally up overall" in individual schools, Lay said. The School of Education has seen a 26 percent increase from last year, which he said appears to be part of a national trend indicating an upsurge of interest in teaching careers.

Overall, Lay noted, Boston College is becoming increasingly attractive to growing numbers of the nation's best students. When the University set about filling the 2,150 slots for the 1996 freshman class, Lay said, as is common practice it offered admission to more than that number, expecting some students to decline. But the yield, or percentage of students accepting the offer of admission, was unexpectedly higher this year.

"The 5 percent increase in our yield rate was the same for many selective private universities," Lay said. "As a result, we enrolled fewer transfer students than we would ordinarily - meaning that this class, too, is more competitive than usual - and have an overall undergraduate enrollment which is actually slightly smaller than in previous years."

The exact size of the class will be in flux this month, until all freshmen are fully matriculated, Lay said, and likely will total between 2,250 and 2,300. The larger-than-expected class has had ramifications for University Housing, as well, he added.

The University anticipated providing about 2,200 beds for the freshman class, administrators said, but encountered an unexpected additional demand for campus housing from returning undergraduates. To accommodate the additional freshmen, the University created 188 "triples" in its Upper Campus and Newton Campus residence halls.

"While parents have expressed concern about the effect of tripling," said University Housing Director Robert Capalbo, "we have done regular surveys concerning its possible impact on the academic performance of students. We found no demonstrable difference between students who have tripled up and those who have not.

"We regard as a positive trend the decision of students to remain part of the campus community," Capalbo continued. "The state of the off-campus rental market, which appears to be tighter and more expensive, was part of the reason. But they are also drawn to the quality of life the campus provides, such as our special interest housing floors."

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