‘Uncertain year’ yields surplus freshmen

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Thanks to an unusually unpredictable admissions environment, the Brown family is just a bit larger this year. Brown enrolled 1,537 students in the class of 2012 – 52 more students than the expected enrollment of 1,485 – making the freshman class approximately 3 percent larger than the Office of Admission expected.

There was also an increase in the number of transfer students enrolling at Brown. About 120 transfers were admitted this year, compared to about 85 last year.

“This was probably the most uncertain year that I can recall,” said Dean of Admission James Miller ’73.

The Office of Admission anticipated fewer admitted students would choose to matriculate at Brown this year because of changes in other schools’ policies, including revamped financial aid programs at peer institutions and Harvard and Princeton’s termination of their early admission programs. The two schools admitted more students off their wait lists, drawing students away from the college they originally chose. Brown accordingly admitted about 120 more freshmen to the class of 2012 than they admitted to the class of 2011, Miller said.

But the yield rate remained similar to past years, and about 55 percent of admitted students chose to enroll, giving the new class of freshmen 52 more students than expected.

First-years have not seemed to notice the larger class size.

“I don’t feel crowded in the least,” said Alysha Aziz ’12, adding that she doesn’t think the larger class is a problem.

Jyotsna Mullur ’12 said the only time she noticed the large class size was when the first-year class had a program together.

Miller said a number of factors are involved in predicting class size, including historical trends and geography, since students who live farther away are less likely to accept Brown’s offer of admission, Miller said.

But new factors made predicting the yield rate this year more difficult. A group of about 20 colleges and universities, including Brown, introduced new financial aid initiatives this year. Miller cited the availability of the new financial aid opportunities as a factor complicating the office’s ability to predict enrollment yield because they were unsure how applicants would respond to the new financial aid offers.

The decisions by Harvard and Princeton to end early admission also made predicting Brown’s yield difficult. Miller said the University expected that other universities would admit students from their wait lists, decreasing the number of students enrolled at Brown. Harvard accepted more than 200 students off of its wait list, and Princeton took 86. Brown accepted about 50 off its waitlist, Miller said – similar to the number accepted last year.

Miller said that predicting yield is never exact. Regardless, the predictions for the previous three years were relatively accurate. He said that there have not been any plans made regarding admissions decisions for next year.

Last year, the yield rate for accepted first-years was 55.6 percent because 2,669 freshmen were admitted to the class of 2011 and 1,484 were enrolled as of April 2008, according to the Office of Institutional Research. Previous years had similar yield rates, with between 56 and 58 percent of admitted students enrolling.

The Office of the Registrar did not expect any problems during class registration. Registrar Michael Pesta said he contacted Computing and Information Services ahead of time to make sure the server can handle the load as first-years register for class late Tuesday afternoon.

“The difference between 1,500 students and 1,550 students is not enough for the server to have any performance problems,” he said.

Last fall, 38 first-year seminars were offered. This year, there are 49 available, according to Pesta. He said it was too early to determine if the number of classes and first-year seminars is sufficient to meet demand.

The larger class size has not negatively affected first-year advising, Dean of the College Katherine Bergeron wrote in an e-mail to The Herald. She said advising groups have remained the same size and that additional faculty advisors were recruited over the summer. The number of Meiklejohn peer advisors was already higher this year than in past years, meaning there were enough advisors for the incoming class.

Orientation has not suffered either from the larger incoming class, according to Jordan Chesin ’09, co-chair of the Orientation Welcoming Committee.

“So far Orientation has been running very smoothly,” he wrote in an e-mail to The Herald. “We have a smaller committee than we have had in the past, but I think this year’s volunteers have such great enthusiasm and commitment that it more than makes up for that fact.”

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