Trends continue

Diversity, Academic Strength Seen In New Freshmen

By Sean Smith
Staff Writer

This year's freshman class confirms the emergence of a more diverse undergraduate student population, University administrators say, one that continues to reach ever higher levels of academic excellence.

The 2,247 students comprising the Class of 2002 represent several other positive trends, the administrators add, which attest to Boston College's evolution as a nationally competitive institution.

"We see a student body that becomes qualitatively stronger almost every year," said Dean for Enrollment Management Robert Lay, noting that the combined SAT scores of the middle 50 percent of the class range from 1210-1350, a slight increase over the Class of 2001.

"This, of course, means a greater challenge for Boston College," Lay continued. "These students arrive with some very high expectations concerning their undergraduate experience, especially the desire to work with faculty.

"In that sense," he said, "our undergraduates are beginning to resemble graduate students."

One particular cause for optimism is the steady growth in AHANA student application and enrollment over the past decade, administrators say. This year's freshman class includes 425 AHANA students, an increase of 22 percent since 1988. The number of AHANA high school seniors applying to Boston College increased by 92 percent over the same period, from 1,796 to 3,446.

African-American students are enrolling in Boston College at a higher level than last decade, according to the Office of Undergraduate Admission. This year, 115 African-Americans are in the freshman class, representing a 58 percent increase over 1988 and the fourth consecutive year that the number has topped 100. Applications from African-Americans rose 139 percent during that period as well, from 312 to 747.

"We will keep striving to attract people of color to BC," said Director of Undergraduate Admission John Mahoney Jr. "But it is gratifying to see the success so far, which has been achieved through long, hard work by many people associated with Boston College."

The University is realizing another goal, Mahoney said: a commitment to need-based financial aid. Boston College has met 96 percent of the need for this year's freshman class, he said, reflecting the success of initiatives such as the doubling of scholarship aid to undergraduates since 1990.

"The progress we've made in financial aid has been, and will continue to be, instrumental to helping us compete nationally," Mahoney said.

Mahoney said the high level of applications Boston College has enjoyed in recent years - over 16,000 for each of the past four years - is impressive, but the yield, or percentage of accepted students who choose to enroll, over that period is equally encouraging.

"The pattern is in the 33 percent to 37 percent range," he said. "With the tremendous strength we're seeing in our application pool, this kind of stability is a very positive trend."

As the University will continue to see the highest-achieving students apply, Mahoney said, "our challenge will be to emphasize Boston College's richness and academic excellence, and our Jesuit and Catholic character."

The next decade also will feature an increase in the college-age population, reversing a demographic trend of the 1980s and '90s, Mahoney said. This rise will be especially prominent among AHANA students, he noted.

Mahoney said the University is "well under way" in its recruitment for next year's freshman class, having held nearly 20 receptions for high school juniors during the last year.

"We saw a tremendous uptick in visitors to campus during the summer," he said. "There is a lot of interest in Boston College out there among prospective college students and we will look to build on that."

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