March 3, 2008
Benefiting from the benevolent conspiracy of a number of key factors, Tulane is enjoying a record number of undergraduate applications for its 2008 fall semester. Inundated with submissions from nearly 34,000 applicants, the Office of Undergraduate Admission stopped accepting applications at the Jan. 15 deadline, said Earl Retif, vice president for enrollment management and registrar.
While colleges and universities nationwide are experiencing a higher volume of applicants due to a demographic bump in the number of 18 years olds that will peak in 2009, Retif contends there must be other factors involved in the staggering 100 percent increase in applicants over last year.
“Part of the challenge is trying to figure out what is creating this extraordinary effect,” said Retif.
“The attention that we received from Katrina, the fact that we survived and all that publicity in a perverse way helped. A lot of young people are coming down here to do volunteer work, and they learn about Tulane.”
Based on anecdotal information gleaned from reading essays written by applicants, Retif said there was “a lot of interest in doing community service down here.” The integration of a public-service component to the undergraduate curriculum could be part of the attraction, he said.
In addition, Retif said that after Hurricane Katrina destabilized Tulane’s traditional ability to recruit students, aggressive recruiting by his staff to fill desks has paid off in a more heightened awareness of the university by potential students and their families.
The university is sending out 8,000 letters of acceptance. Retif expects to easily hit the targeted enrollment number of 1,400 first-year students for the fall, although that figure could reach into the 1,600s, which is what previous record levels were before the storm. Beyond that, indicators suggest that the average SAT score for incoming students could be as much as 30 points higher than last year.
Interestingly, the previous undergraduate applications record at Tulane was set in 2006, the first year after Katrina, when 20,000 applicants responded. That applicant pool yielded an enrollment of only 1,000, a 53 percent falloff from the previous year. “That was a different story,” said Retif. “In 2006 some students applied on a whim, more to express their solidarity with us than as an actual indication that they might be coming.”
In 2006, said Retif, his office did not see the kind of follow-through that his office is now experiencing, with applicants now diligently sending in transcripts and test scores.
“Preliminary results show that we are running ahead of any previous year,” he added. “Every indicator says this is a very big year.”
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